After almost a decade in business, Joseph’s Fireside Steakhouse in Waterville is closing its doors for good.

The decision comes one year after the owners, Kevin Joseph and E.J. Fabian, decided to put the restaurant up for sale.

But with the increased restrictions implemented by the state due to the coronavirus pandemic, Joseph and Fabian have decided to shut down the restaurant without transferring ownership.

“As many of you know, we placed the restaurant up for sale a couple of years ago as our initial plan was to run it for five years,” Joseph wrote in a prepared statement. “We had every intention to remain open until such time that it was sold, but due to the mandatory shutdown because of the coronavirus, we came to an abrupt and unanticipated crossroad.” 

Kevin Joseph stands in the dining room of his restaurant Joseph’s Steakhouse on West River Road in Waterville in 2019. The restaurant, which closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, will not reopen. Joseph and co-owner E.J. Fabian announced they will close the restaurant for good, explaining the strict guidelines in place for dine-in service would not allow them to operate with enough capacity to pay the bills. The restaurant was previously up for sale. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Joseph said that the restrictions Gov. Janet Mills has put into place regarding restaurants would hinder the steakhouse’s ability to accommodate at most 50 customers at a time until September.

“With the social distancing requirements in place, we feel it would be very difficult to safely seat more than 35 to 40 people,” Joseph wrote. “Operating at this limited capacity we would not be able to generate enough revenue to pay the bills.” 

The steakhouse, located at 99 West River Road and overlooking the Pine Ridge Municipal Golf Course, typically seats 140 to 150 people.

Restaurants were given the OK to open for dine-in services on May 18 by Mills but must abide by strict guidelines that include:

• Spacing tables at least 6 feet apart for dine-in customers.

• Using a reservation-only system.

• Switching to laminated menus.

• Shutting down salad bars or other “common food” areas.

Mills said loosening or reimposing restrictions would depend on virus monitoring by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties, the date for restaurants to reopen for dine-in services was set for June 1. But, after 28 new cases and two additional deaths were reported last Wednesday, Mills delayed reopening dine-in services but has allowed restaurants to offer outdoor dining in those counties.

Joseph said he will discuss options for those who still have a valid gift card with members of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.

“It is extremely important to us that the outstanding gift cards remain in the community to help our fellow chamber members who are struggling,” Joseph wrote. 

Joseph’s Fireside Steakhouse first opened in June 2011 after Joseph was inspired by seeing his family own and operate Joseph’s Market on Front Street in Waterville for 90 years.

Joseph and his wife, Diane, ran the market for 30 years and specialized in fine meats. The couple sold the market in 2015.

When the restaurant was put on the market last year, Joseph noted that the operation was meant to be a short-term venture.

The property was listed for sale at $995,000 for the business and building with Malone Commercial Brokers of Portland.

“E.J. and I would like to thank each and every one of you for making this dream of ours a success for many years,” Joseph wrote. “We have been so fortunate to have opened our restaurant in such a caring community. This is not the exit plan we had in mind at all, and we wish we could pass this on to new ownership, but at this time it is not an option.”

Joseph and Fabian closed down the restaurant in March when the pandemic began to increase in severity.

Unlike other restaurants in Waterville, Joseph and Fabian decided not to offer takeout and instead chose to give most of the restaurant’s perishable foods to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. The two also bought food from a vendor to give to employees to make meals at home.

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