WELLS — Many were saddened when Lord’s Harborside restaurant in Wells Harbor closed its doors last year. But those hankering for seafood with that priceless harbor in view are in luck.

Last week, the board of selectmen awarded a lease for the location to the former owner and founder of Billy’s Chowder House in Wells.

“I’m elated,” said William “Billy” Hobbs during a telephone interview on Friday.

“I was there (at Lord’s Harborside) the last weekend it was open, not even knowing this was happening,” he said.

But when he learned the town would be looking for someone new to operate the restaurant, Hobbs jumped at the chance.

Hobbs has until March 31 to sign the lease. But he said he’s hoping to get all his ducks in a row so he get sign the contract sooner and start making some changes to the space right away.

Since leaving his former restaurant, Hobbs said he has been “looking for the right opportunity.”

He said this was the opportunity he was looking for for a number of reasons.

“I love entertaining people … making sure they’re having a good time,” said Hobbs, “and I love being near the ocean.

“This meets my comfort zone,” said Hobbs.

There were several reasons Hobbs’ proposal was the top choice by the selectmen over two other applicants, said Town Manager Jonathan Carter.

Some of the reasons, he said, include the $75,000 per year, Hobbs offered to pay the town ”“ the highest sum to rent the restaurant. He also presented a creative plan and is “a known local entity who has a very strong track record,” Carter said.

In his proposal to the town, Hobbs noted his long history with the town, including ancestors who have lived or had other ties with the town for hundreds of year. Hobbs himself summered in Wells all of his life, he said, and became a permanent resident after graduating from college in 1976, and he started up Billy’s Chowder House a couple of years later. He has been active in civic organizations in town such as serving as a board member for the Wells Chamber of Commerce and as the Wells Rotary Club president twice.

“I think it’s a very good match,” said Carter.

Seafood will continue to be a mainstay of the restaurant, said Hobbs. He also plans to offer other options including healthy choices.

Some changes are also being planned.

One of the major changes Hobbs said he’d like to make to the restaurant is to overhaul, upgrade and reconfigure the kitchen to allow more diners a harbor view. He also plans to create a bar and lounge area.

Some of these plans might have to be put off until next year, said Hobbs, in order for him to open in May.

On Friday, he said he had last visited the restaurant in December when interested parties were taken on a mandatory walk-through of the establishment.

Hobbs said he was anxious to get into the building again to start visualizing the changes he was planning.

“I’m very eager,” he said. “I’ve never been afraid to work hard.”

“By operating a restaurant with an atmosphere of good food, good times, and yet the serenity that is offered in this location at the harbor,” wrote Hobbs in his application, “is a perfect match for the townspeople, and its tourist to be well fed and entertained.”

The other applicants were Mariann and Tony Barbano of Saco, who offered an annual lease amount of $27,500, and Neil and Nelson Dumont of Saco and Jim Albert of Old Orchard Beach, who offered a lease amount of $55,000.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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