After 28 Years, Burger King Closes

By Lura Jackson

After nearly thirty years, the Calais location of Burger King closed on Tuesday, January, 6th. (Photo by Lura Jackson).

On Tuesday, January 6th, the employees and customers of the Calais Burger King were notified of the impending closure of the restaurant, which took place that afternoon. Franchise owner and President of Northcountry Management Group Steve Wegner announced the decision to the twenty employees of the location following an ongoing period of revenue loss. 

The Calais Burger King has been in operation since June of 1987, while Wegner has been the owner since January of 1988. He said the location had performed well for its first two decades of operation, but that things had begun to turn for the worse in the past several years. The recession of 2008 resulted in significantly reduced sales, particularly in the Calais location. Wegner invested nearly $250,000 in the remodeling of the restaurant a few years later, but he had yet to recoup that investment. In May of 2014, Wegner filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and it was determined that the Calais location had to be closed.

“I had considered closing in the autumn of 2014,” Wegner said. He made the decision to stay open until the start of the new year to avoid adding stress to the holiday season of his employees.  “I had also considered telling them a month in advance, but for better or worse, I came to the decision that that would be a bad idea. So, Tuesday morning I came into the restaurant, and by that afternoon our doors were closed.” Wegner posted a noticed to customers along with his contact information to answer any questions that townsfolk might have.

Wegner has been running Burger King restaurants since 1980, and he had often discussed with his wife that it was nice as a businessman to have never laid off someone. “I can't say that anymore. I can honestly say that last Tuesday was the most difficult day in my business life.” Wegner will continue to operate his other Burger King restaurants in the state, located in Rockland, Ellsworth, Bangor, Orono, Houlton, Caribou, and Presque Isle. 

Recognizing the condition of Calais’s job market, Wegner said that it made the decision to close all the more difficult. “Just as in any community in rural Maine, I was glad to provide jobs to people that put money right back into the local economy,” he said, adding that “the folks in Calais were more than great to us as a business.”

“My biggest concern was and still is the employees,” Wegner said, saying that he’s met with the Department of Labor and arranged for positions at any of his other locations for each of the Calais employees. “I certainly would not and do not expect people to uproot themselves and their families for a fast food job, but I can't say enough about the quality of the crew in Calais. Some of the employees have expressed interest that they may relocate and I am hopeful that they will.”