Morse’s Cribstone Grill on Bailey Island built a dedicated following during the 11 years it was operated by Sheldon and Kathy Morse. (JOHN LONG PHOTO)

Morse’s Cribstone Grill on Bailey Island — known for its lively little bar, its beautiful views, its tasty food (the fried shrimp basket!) and its always crowded parking lot — has closed its doors forever.

Operated by Sheldon and Kathy Morse for the past 11 years, the Cribstone shut down early for the summer season on Aug. 20 after dealing with staffing shortages and challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Morses recently decided to make the closing permanent.

“We need to do something a little less labor-intensive,” Sheldon Morse explained. “Getting help has always been difficult because housing and rents are so expensive in Harpswell. It just got to be too much work.”

The Cribstone was closed on weekends for much of the summer because the Morses didn’t want to wear out their “tiny” staff. “We thought last year was the worst year in our restaurant’s history. It wasn’t! This year has also been rough!” read a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Comments from the Cribstone’s Facebook followers made clear the Morses had a devoted following. A small sampling:

“Your restaurants have been a tradition for our family for a long time. So much so that it was your lobster we had to have in the lobster rolls for our daughter’s wedding reception on Harpswell eight years ago! What a wonderful treat!”

“Thanks for all your work, for the grace with which you did it, and the dependable quality of your delicious food.”

“We are there every day for our week on the island and never had a bad meal. The service was great. Thank you! I wish you would share your salad dressing recipe. It’s the best!”

Sheldon Morse said he and Kathy are very thankful for all the support.

“We made many, many friends over the years,” he said. “It’s a great community, a great neighborhood and we really enjoyed ourselves almost always. But now it’s time for a little less responsibility.”

The Cribstone building is owned by local real estate agent Rob Williams. He said he regretted the restaurant’s closing because “the Morses have done an outstanding job.”

He added that, while nothing is yet set in stone, “there will definitely be a restaurant there and it will definitely be open next summer.”