Nautilus moved across the ‘Passy’ Bridge in December; doubling business

‘Location and loyalty’ is how Belfast’s newest restaurant is thriving

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 2:45pm

BELFAST — As we wrote in a recent article, it’s always tough for a fairly new restaurant in the Midcoast to thrive during the winter, but Jenifer Oakes, one of three co-owners of Nautilus Seafood & Grill, credits two factors for their winter survival: a new location and loyal customers.

Though it’s only been a little more than a month since they moved from the east side of Belfast, across the bridge the spans the Passagassawakeag River, and took over the former Weathervane Seafood Restaurant space, a scenic downtown waterfront spot on Main Street, Oakes has seen a huge spike in business.

“Since we moved, we’ve probably seen a 50 percent increase in sales,” she said. “We’re doing lunch now too, and the dinners have been a lot busier. Everyone’s making more money; everyone’s happier.”

The east side of Belfast has always been quiet due to the drive-through traffic.

“We opened in 2012 over there and we’d stay open in the winters, but the east side in the winter is deadly,” she said. “We really had to cut back our schedule in the winter and suffered through. It was not profitable. We’d make a bunch of money in the summer and sink it all back in during the slow winters. And now that we’re over here, we haven’t had to do that.”

Unlike Camden and Rockland, where restaurant turnover seems to happen every season, it’s fairly rare for this kind of space to open up in Belfast.

“Darby’s has been here for 30 years, Dockside for the same and Rollie’s has been here forever,” said Oakes.

Weathervane Seafood Restaurant, a family chain seafood restaurant, started in 1969 as a take-out stand, before expanding to multiple locations in Maine. It closed its Belfast operations at the end of the season in 2014 and never re-opened.

Oakes said her customers aren’t deterred by the new location, which for some means a drive across the bridge. “If anything, we’re seeing the same people more often, which is great,” she said.

Kay Stephens can be reached at