The AT Cafe has long been an iconic cafe in Millinocket, Maine. Located on Penobscot Avenue, our downtown street, it was the place where locals and tourists went for breakfast, lunch, or supper. Across the street from the town office, town employees would eat there during their lunch hour, and there would be a pretty good chance of catching almost anyone local there at some point during the day. When church let out on Sunday afternoon, groups from local churches would gather at the AT Cafe. The Fin & Feather Club, a local hunting and fishing club, had its own designer table there, complete with a bulletin board. If you wanted to speak someone on the town council, you'd be likely to find at least one or two of them a the AT Cafe. Local tradespeople would practically do business there. In fact, if I were in the mood to socialize, rather than thinking of someone to call or visit, I'd go for coffee at the AT Cafe, and it was rare that I wouldn't find someone there who I knew well enough to share a table with. Since Millinocket is at the end of the Appalachian Trail, and just down the street from the AT Lodge, a hiker's hostel once owned by the same people who owned the AT Cafe, this was where thru-hikers would hang out, and this is where their family members would eat while waiting for a thru-hiker to complete the trail. In the winter, snowmobilers would eat at the AT Cafe. The AT Cafe is fairly small but it always had a crowd. The menu and the prices were good, the AT waitresses were known and liked by everyone on town, and they mostly kept the same crew for years. The AT Cafe changed ownership a few times without making significant changes to the business or the business model. Then, about ten years ago, someone bought the AT Cafe who didn't think he needed to cater to locals. He removed the Fin & Feather table. He supported an environmental agenda that more than half the town strongly opposed, and, when he was confronted by this, he made a public statement that he didn't need their business. He didn't get it, and he soon learned that AT hikers are only here for a couple of months during the late summer, and they are usually picked up by relatives and leave, so any one hiker might only eat at the AT Cafe a couple of times. For the most part, snowmobilers weren't in favor of this guy's environmental agendas either, so he had a bit of a problem. Without the business of locals, he had to cut his hours, and that began a spiral that the business has never recovered from. When people don't know when and if a restaurant is going to be open, they are more likely to find another restaurant than try accommodate a limited schedule. Without much in the way of local business, he closed the restaurant during the winter, and summer businesses have an even larger problem, in that the restaurant is no longer even on anyone's mind when they're thinking of going out to eat. The environmental nut sold the business to another family who, I think, most people liked well enough. The new owner had grown up in Millinocket, but had moved shortly after high school and gained experience in running a restaurant in some other state. Given the opportunity to move back home and run the iconic AT Cafe, it seemed like it would be a good fit. He did change the menu quite a bit, turning it into something of a quasi-Mexican restaurant, but I think he might have been able to pull that off. But then COVID came along, and our governor ordered the restaurants to close. They tried to do business through a window pickup service, but I doubt they did a lot of business that way. Most people aren't going to drive to a restaurant to pick something up from a window, and then bring it home to eat. Rather, they'll just cook at home. Even after restaurants were allowed to reopen, the new owners were so afraid of COVID that they refused to reopen for inside service. Given the option of other restaurants being open, they lost the small amount of window service business they had managed to keep. The AT Cafe closed for several months, then reopened about a year ago under new ownership. The owner used to be the chief cook at a resort north of town, and is well liked. Although the menu is far more limited than that which the AT Cafe had during its heyday, the food is good and the prices are fairly reasonable. However, the hours are very limited, and I think they change often. Plus, they are closed on days that don't make any sense. I would guess that of the last ten times that I have tried to eat at the AT Cafe, I found them open only once. Penobscot Avenue is our only one-way street, and it's not a street that I generally use so I have to go out of my way to see if they're open, so it's more than a little discouraging to find that they are not. It's close enough that I used to walk there often, but it's doubly discouraging when I walk there only to find them closed. Even more irritating is that they quit taking orders even before their posted closure hour, which is what I found today. I managed to get there during their opening hours but they quit taking orders a half hour before closure. This is something that I always hate about some restaurants. While most of them will serve anyone who comes in during their posted open hours, others want to be able to close their doors and go home at closure time, so they quit taking orders a half-hour or so before closure. Whenever I encounter that, I am very unlikely to ever try them again. So, unless my wife insists one day, I won't be eating at the AT Cafe again unless I hear that they're under new ownership again. They will be closing for the winter, anyhow. You can't operate a restaurant here if people can't expect it to be open during reasonable hours.