Tourists staying in nearby motels heard the early morning sirens of fire trucks who arrived at the popular Joseph’s by the Sea to extinguish the kitchen fire and may have been an electrical fire according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Smoke could be smelled several blocks away from the fire early this afternoon even though the outside and the roof of the building appeared undamaged.
The new owner of the popular restaurant, Barbara McCrum, was on site, but conferring with insurance and remediation experts about the restoration of the restaurant so Joseph’s can get up and running soon. She was not available to talk to the press she said.
Water damage was heavy because of the sprinkler system and from the fire department,” said Joe Squires, a tourist visiting in the area with his family who talked to a member of a construction company on site. They were all relieved that no one was injured during the fire according to Joe.
Nearby a server at The Shack, also a seafood restaurant, said it was gearing up for more business in the immediate future because of the temporary shutdown of Joseph’s due to the fire. “They are an important competitor of ours,” she said. The Shack relies heavily on employers from overseas. They come from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic among other countries. In the morning they work at several nearby motels and then work at The Shack across the West Grand Street.
“You could walk into almost any business around here and get a job starting tomorrow,” said Ricco, an employee of The Capital Market, also on West Grand Street. The Palace Playground is normally busy during the days, but is closed until 4:00 pm every day because it can’t find enough employees to run the rides. He suspects it takes between 100 – 200 people to run it.
An eleven year employee of this forty-two year old Market, Ricco said that June was the best month the Market has ever had. The weather was good and people were ready to get out after the COVID-19 pandemic. The jury is out on the month of July because of the poor weather so far he said.
Barbara and Scott McCrum just purchased Joseph’s according to people familiar with them and the restaurant. They just completed an expansion of the kitchen and the outdoor patio. And now this fire. Diane Kelly, a long-time resident of Camp Ellis, admitted that “service can be slow in many restaurants because of a lack of help.” Some of them have not opened for that reason. Two very popular places, the Sunset Grill and the Brunswick, are owned by one person. Only the Brunswick opened this year because of a lack of help Diane said as she made her way to Bill’s Pizza to get a slice. Bill’s Pizza in Portland closed and Holy Donuts is expected to open in that location on Commercial Street.
“We chose to grab something on the street like pizza because its easier than going to a sit down place currently. Service is slow. Lines are long. Everyone is waiting outside of restaurants because service is so slow. There is an hour or more wait in the middle of the afternoon to eat,” said Bobbie Hebert, a nurse, who is visiting Old Orchard Beach, (OOB), from Massilon, Ohio with her family. The three have been eating mostly fast food since they arrived on Friday. “We haven’t seen this shortage of help affect in-door dining at home. Some places here won’t even take reservations.” The family was deciding what fast-food to eat next when we parted.