Business, News

After more than 40 years, Lynnfield’s Bali Hai restaurant is closing its doors

Lynnfield, Ma. 12-30-18. The front parking lot at the Bali Hai restaurant at 1 p.m on December 30, 2018. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNNFIELD The Bali Hai has served its last Scorpion Bowl.

After more than 40 years, James and Lillie Yee posted a sign on the front door of the Moulton Drive diner over the weekend thanking customers for their patronage.

Called a hidden gem because it was shielded from Route 128 by an 18-foot soundproof wall, the Polynesian restaurant has seen business fade as customers sought more upscale alternatives at nearby MarketStreet or traditional favorites like Kowloon in Saugus.

The last plate of chicken fingers and Peking raviolis were served on Sunday. Boston Restaurant Talk first reported the news.

Patrons took to Facebook to to praise or zing the landmark eatery.

“Will miss Bali Hai so much … lots of memories there growing up,” wrote Danielle Caprio.

“Horrible, this will be the loss of a great American icon, the Polynesian restaurant. Lester, we will miss you and your family,” said Jay Kimball.

“I’m gonna miss my stomping grounds,” wrote Jerine D. Martin. “Been going since my Dad took me when I was 10-years-old.”

Maryanne Lecouras from Danvers wrote she would miss it too. “Family took us there when we were young. I had my junior and senior prom after hours at the Bali … always loved it.”

The beginning of the end for the 275-seat eatery started in 2016 when the Yee family listed the property for $2.5 million.

Since then, at least two buyers have shown interest. Monastiero Development proposed a four-story, 68-unit apartment building to replace the restaurant. But the plan was rejected by neighbors who said the complex would exacerbate an already congested part of town.

Nearly two years later,  Lynnfield twins Matthew and David Palumbo presented a scaled back proposal for 32 apartments priced from $2,200 to $3,300 in a three-story, wood-frame building. But that too got a thumbs-down from neighbors and the Planning Board.

The brothers returned last fall with an even smaller plan that reduced the number of units to 23 and lowered the height of the building to two stories. But the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) rejected it in November.

Ted Regnante, attorney for the Palumbos, said his clients filed an appeal with Land Court in Boston last week to overturn the ZBA decision. That decision could take up to two years, he said.

In the meantime, the Palumbos expect to close on the 1.4-acre property at the South Essex Registry of Deeds on Monday. They will renovate the restaurant and lease it to a new operator until the case is settled, Regnante said.

The Palumbos have said if the apartment project fails to win approval, they would demolish the Bali Hai and build a new restaurant.

The Yee family could not be reached for comment.

More Stories From Lynnfield