There’s a happy ending for a Chesapeake Bay institution. The Crab Claw Restaurant in St. Michaels, which had been set to close for good at the end of this season, will remain open with its existing family operators and staff.
Bay Bulletin reported back in April that the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) would purchase the Crab Claw property and another piece of land adjacent to its waterfront campus, and that the Crab Claw would close its doors at the end of the 2023 season.
The news made waves, as thousands of people reacted to our story on social media. For many visitors, a meal at the Crab Claw is a frequent stop before or after a visit to the maritime museum next door. For decades, tourists have come to dine by land or by water as a traditional part of the St. Michaels experience.
Just as the time was nearing for the restaurant to shut its doors, the Crab Claw, Inc. and CBMM announced jointly that the restaurant will remain open for business “and continue to be operated by the Jones-Wass family and their loyal staff.”
In the statement posted on Facebook, the museum and the business said, “The Crab Claw Restaurant and CBMM look forward to continuing their mutually beneficial relationship and to serving the St. Michaels community.”
On Tuesday Bay Bulletin spoke to CBMM President and CEO Kristen Greenaway, who says that keeping the restaurant open “will continue to enhance the St. Michaels experience, both for those visiting by land and by water.”
Greenaway called the acquisition of the Crab Claw property and a nearby parking lot “a game changer” for the maritime museum. When the title is transferred in the new year, the current owner will begin leasing the property from CBMM.
The history of the Crab Claw and its property go decades and even hundreds of years back. The restaurant has been operated by the same family for nearly 60 years. The daughter of its founders is now the sole owner. Before it became the classic crabhouse we know today, the property’s seafood history dates back centuries.
“The property’s roots go back even further,” CBMM’s Chief Historian Pete Lesher told us back in April,” “with the first pier in that location showing up on an atlas from 1877 and the town’s steamboat wharf, including a one-story building with a cupola, standing on the site by the 1890s.”
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime museum also recently acquired the cruise boat Patriot, which has been docked along its waterfront for years. The 65-foot, two-level vessel is modeled to look like an old-fashioned Chesapeake Bay steamboat. Operating since 1990, it takes visitors on scenic cruises of the Miles River. It, too, will keep its existing staff. Greenaway says the museum is thrilled to expand its fleet, as one of its chief goals is to get people onto the water.
CBMM will be looking at ways to expand Patriot‘s offerings even further in the future, with educational and recreational cruises. CBMM has already offered ticket packages that included all three experiences: entry to the museum, a cruise on the Patriot, and a meal at the Crab Claw. Now CBMM has full ownership of that triple experience.
-Meg Walburn Viviano