The lobster pound on Garrison Cove, Bailey Island, is under new ownership. (Sam Lemonick photo)

The owner of the Portland Lobster Co. restaurant is buying the wharf and lobster pound on Garrison Cove, next to Cook’s Lobster & Ale House and facing the Cribstone Bridge. Ethan Morgan announced the deal for the Bailey Island property on Aug. 17.

Morgan says he plans to keep the property, at 66 Garrison Cove Road, operating as a lobster pound and commercial wharf.

The pound has already become his restaurant’s sole source of whole lobsters, which Morgan sees as a benefit for diners. “We’ll know what boats they’re coming off of, so we can be sure what we’re serving our customers,” says Morgan.

He anticipates his restaurant, at 180 Commercial St. on Portland’s waterfront, will source about 20,000 to 30,000 pounds annually to start. The wharf reportedly brings in about 300,000 pounds each year, the rest of which will be sold to other buyers.

Eastern Traders Ltd., of Nobleboro, a company that buys and transports lobster, will operate the pound under a lease from Morgan. CEO Deb Sanderson says she has already made investments in the pound’s equipment and has discussed with Morgan other improvements the wharf needs. “I think it’s a good outlook for the wharf,” Sanderson says.

In the future, Morgan may start buying directly from lobstermen. That could mean lower prices for his customers and higher prices paid to the fishermen. Eastern Traders currently sets the price for lobsters as the pound’s operator, an arrangement Morgan says allowed him to get the pound up and running again this season. He hopes that as his business’s relationship with Eastern Traders continues, they will find ways to make their partnership as beneficial to lobstermen as possible.

Morgan is not aware of other lobster restaurants in Maine that own pounds, although many lobster pounds sell directly to customers or have their own restaurants. Luke’s Lobsters, with locations in Portland and around the country, is one restaurant that buys from fishermen and processes its own lobsters.

The Bailey Island property has changed hands several times in recent years. Portland real estate developer Arthur Girard’s Delta Realty LLC bought the wharf and lobster pound at auction in 2017 after outbidding the owners of Cook’s Lobster & Ale House. More recently, Girard attempted to buy the Harpswell Coastal Academy property and donate it to the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, a deal that ultimately fell through.

Girard subsequently sold the pound to Aaron Lewis, then of Day’s Crabmeat & Lobster in Yarmouth. Morgan initially discussed purchasing the wharf and lobster pound from Lewis, but the two were not able to come to an agreement. Around March 2023, Lewis turned the property back over to Girard to keep it out of foreclosure, according to Morgan. Lewis could not be reached for comment.

Knowing about Morgan’s interest, Girard approached him and the two made a deal. Morgan says he paid $650,000, purchasing the wharf and pound through a company he formed for the purpose called Cribstone Holdings LLC.

The lobster pound does not use all of the wharf’s available space, and Morgan is considering what else to do with the property. Above all, he says he wants to keep it a working waterfront. “I worry about what else it could become and wouldn’t want to see it become something else,” says Morgan.

One option would be to build a facility to shuck lobsters and pick their meat, which Morgan says his restaurant could buy for lobster rolls and other dishes.

He is also thinking about retrofitting the wharf to handle bluefin tuna, which organizations like the Gulf of Maine Research Institute have started promoting as a sustainable fishery with room for growth. That would fit well with the wharf’s history; it used to host the Bailey Island bluefin tuna fishing competition, said to be the oldest on the East Coast.

Sam Lemonick is a freelance reporter. He lives in Cundy’s Harbor.