Longtime Front Street restaurant shuts doors

After 31 years in Lahaina, Moose McGillycuddy’s closed its doors at its Front Street location on Thursday, according to part-owner George Watson.

And Friday was “moving day,” Watson said.

“I feel terrible about it,” he said. “I’ve been here 30 years. My kids grew up here. It was a very, very difficult thing to do.”

The closure leaves 42 people without jobs, but Watson said he was confident they’d be able to find employment elsewhere.

Moose McGillycuddy’s locations in Kihei and Waikiki will remain open, he said, as will the Moose Inc. partnership’s Fred’s Mexican Cafe, also in Kihei. The two Kihei restaurants have about 100 employees.

Watson said the Moose McGillycuddy’s location in Lahaina hasn’t made money for three to four years, but we held on to keep people employed.” Eventually, the business could no longer operate, he said, adding that the restaurant wasn’t able to come to terms on a new lease with the property owner.

Although a few employees may transfer to the Kihei location, many of the Lahaina workers don’t have transportation to South Maui, he said, and the Kihei restaurant doesn’t have many openings for more employees.

Moose McGillycuddy’s in Lahaina wasn’t able to recover from the Great Recession that began in December 2007, he said. “We had trouble getting the sales volume that we needed,” he added.

Paid parking in Lahaina has made business difficult, Watson said. There’s been an ongoing trend for visitors staying at time-share resorts or vacation rentals to shop at Costco and Safeway and cook in their units. And, Front Street visitors tend to want to eat at restaurants just off the water, like Kimo’s or Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

“It makes a big difference when you have an ocean view,” he said. “We’re on the wrong side of the street, and we’re upstairs.”

The business climate has been tough for the restaurant known for its beer-battered fish and chips, fish tacos and burgers, he said.

“We decided that it was time to go,” he said.

Watson said he has many fond memories of working at the Lahaina restaurant, including nearly a half-dozen Project Graduation events for Lahainaluna High School.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “We tried to create a fun, lively environment.”

* Brian Perry can be reached at