With town’s OK of Lidl, Kelly’s Restaurant to close in November

By on October 4, 2017

Mike Kelly discussed his plans Wednesday. (Russ Lay)

Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant and Tavern will close sometime between Nov. 26 and Nov. 30, owner Mike Kelly said Wednesday after the Nags Head Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a Planning Board recommendation to allow German-based grocer Lidl to build a 36,000-square-foot store on the 4.9-acre site.

The parcel also includes the Kelly’s Professional Center and houses Kelly’s Catering Service.

While the iconic restaurant will close, some popular food items will remain and new services will be introduced by Kelly in his ongoing ventures.


Kelly told reporters that the 20-month process had required some contract extensions as Lidl worked with the town to change facets of their window-heavy signature look.

The restauranteur was also cautious in his remarks, saying the board vote “will most likely allow the developer to sign a final contract in late November 2017.”

He noted there were still a few outstanding issues, primarily involving the status of several live oaks on the property as well as a needed NCDOT ruling creating a right-turn-only egress onto N.C. 158 from Carolinian Circle.

Kelly also had praise for Nags Head officials in his written comments.

“I would like to point out that throughout the procedure for redeveloping this property the Town of Nags Head has been very cooperative. They have been receptive to meetings and interchanges. This sale and development has a process to follow. The [town] departments and officials cooperated one hundred percent.”


If the contract is finalized, Kelly would need to remove all contents from the buildings on the parcel within 60 days.

Kelly was hesitant to name an exact date for the final day of business, and he has not yet decided whether any special event will mark the occasion.

He noted several bands had already asked for the honor of playing the final show in November.


The rest of the conference consisted of reminisces, especially recalling the number of regional and even national bands that had played on the stage, which Kelly upgraded and expanded over 32 years and 33 summers of music, dancing, and late-night revelry.

Kelly purchased the restaurant from John Lancaster and Paul Shaver in 1985, who operated it as J. Fleming Munde’s.

After some “minor remodeling” Kelly’s opened on June 18, 1985, and has maintained a 363/364 days a year  nightly dinner service since that time.

Over  those three decades, Kelly was proud to note the restaurant generated $72 million sales, provided jobs to over 1,200 full-time and 600 seasonal hires, and collected over $5 million in various town, county, state and federal taxes.

He also mentioned the charity golf tournament his restaurant group started in 1994, which has raised over $300,000 for the Outer Banks Community Foundation and given over $330,000 to other Dare County organizations and charities.

The restaurant also started and hosted the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Nags Head, which has run since 1990 for 28 consecutive years.

In addition to Kelly’s Restaurant, he also provided the capital and experience to develop other Outer Banks restaurants, including Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant (originally named ‘Penguin Isle’) and Bar, Mako Mike’s Beach Grille &Bar, and the former George’s Junction.

Kelly also issued a short list of answers to the “most asked questions” since he first announced the potential sale:

“What are you going to do with all this stuff?”

Some will go to Mako’s Restaurant, Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant, my home, and the rest will be auctioned or sold individually upon inventory.”

“Are you ready for retirement?”

I will still own Mako’s, Pamlico Jack’s and Kelly’s OBX Catering. I will be fully engaged in all of the above. General Managers Bill, Doug, Vickie, Mary Ann, Ricardo and I are excited about our new adventures.”

“Will you continue to cater?”

Yes!! As one of the Outer Banks first catering services, we will continue to offer our traditional services but supplement with delivery and new offerings for the Outer Banks. It will be a fun and energetic hospitality surprise.

“No more Sweet Potato Biscuits?”

Wrong! Our 32 1/2 years of consistently offering this recipe from Martha Kay Helms will continue. Mako Mike’s and Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant will both incorporate Sweet Potato Biscuits into their regular and catering menus.”



  • Kevin Cherry

    One more thing about Mike Kelly is how many restaurants were opened by people who have worked for him.
    Quagmire’s, Frisco’s, Mama Kwan’s, Goombay’s, Run Down, High Cotton, and Flying Fish, to list a few.
    I learned a lot from Mike during the year I worked for him. The most important lesson was to pay attention to detail.
    Mike Kelly is the hardest working restaurateur in the business and deserves his success.
    But I don’t think he is the type to quietly ride off into the sunset. He still has a lot of “irons in the fire” and the energy handle all of them.

    Saturday, Oct 7 @ 2:39 pm
  • Woodie Farley

    Which restaurant will have Kelly’s Seafood Norfolk?? That is our favorite!

    Monday, Oct 9 @ 6:00 am
  • DS

    What happened to not allowing big box stores? It’s not what you know but who you know. For anyone else this would remain a restaurant.

    Monday, Oct 9 @ 12:29 pm
  • Cathy Molumby

    Have loved Kelly’S since it opened,our family has been there almost every year since it opened. Mr. Kelly would usually stop by our table.

    Monday, Oct 9 @ 3:17 pm
  • Clarke Martin

    Mike, Mike, Mike,

    I remember when you worked for Miss Phoebe at the Seafare!

    Well-done, take a break,


    Tuesday, Oct 10 @ 12:57 pm
  • DeWe

    Another grocer… How perfectly thrilling…

    Wednesday, Oct 11 @ 8:42 am
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