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Fulton's Crab House to Close at Disney World This Spring

February 4, 2016, 10:52 AM · One of Walt Disney World's most popular restaurants will be closing soon.

Fulton's Crab House in Disney Springs will close for a long-term renovation in April. More than 200 workers at the restaurant will be laid off, according to a notice filed with the state of Florida. Those workers will be given first dibs on applying for jobs at the new restaurant when it opens in November, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Fulton's is the successor to the Empress Lilly, a riverboat-themed restaurant complex named after Walt Disney's wife that opened in 1976 in what was then the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village. When Levy Restaurants took over and revamped the facility as Fulton's Crab House in 1996, the riverboat's smokestacks and ever-churning stern wheel were removed.

Levy's original contract with Disney to run the restaurant was for 20 years, which would mean that the deal is expiring this spring, if no extension or changes were agreed to. (We could not find a record of any.) Last month, the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Disney Springs closed for a long-term refurbishment, resulting in the layoff of more than 400 workers. There has been no announcement from Disney or Levy yet about the future of Fulton's Crab House.

According to the Sentinel, Fulton's Crab House takes in more money than any other independently-owned restaurant at the Walt Disney World Resort, and ranks in the top 20 highest-grossing independent restaurants in the United States.

Our Restaurant Review for Fulton's:

Replies (6)

February 4, 2016 at 11:15 AM · The article is behind a paywall. Some quotes.

"lay off 214 people"

"the cuts will take place from April 4 to April 14"

"Fulton’s Crabhouse is one of the highest grossing eateries in the entire country, bringing in about $21.2 million annually with an average check of about $45, according to Restaurant Business Online."

"That puts it at number 13 among independent restaurants nationwide, and the highest grossing independent restaurant at Disney, more than Wolfgang Puck Grand Café."

February 4, 2016 at 11:28 AM · FWIW, I can click through to the Sentinel article okay. But I wonder if that's just because I haven't read enough pages on that site recently to hit their wall.

Anyway, it stinks to lose Fulton's, even if temporarily. But I hope that they bring back the stern wheel and smokestacks as part of the refurb.

February 4, 2016 at 6:49 PM · Agree that they really should replace the smokestacks and paddle wheel. How, about going back to the old Disney theming detail. If they are worried about spoiling the view with the paddle wheel a little Plexiglas instead of wood would work fine on the portion blocking any view from the restaurant. Also, the boat can stay the Lilly Belle and should have that name replaced on the bow and/or stern. The restaurant can be called anything they like.
February 4, 2016 at 10:06 PM · Removing the smokestacks and paddle wheels sounds like a cost cutting move, even if it wasn't, it gives the impression that they cheaped out. That's not the kind of impression that I would want for the highest grossing independent restaurant at Disney.
February 5, 2016 at 2:53 PM · Being a DVC Member, and a regular user of Dining Plan, this is sad news.
We love the food (Especially Alaska King Crabs). I was reading this story to my wife and we felt really bad especially for the people that work there. In my opinion Fultons has the second best service in all disney world (THE BEST GROUP of waiters is Sci-fi Dine at DHS). I really hope those people find jobs, because every time we went there we where more than happy with the full experience, and the wonderful service.
(Sorry if there is any writing error, spanish is my native language)
February 6, 2016 at 11:31 AM · One major flaw with the statement it is one of the highest grossing independent restaurants while it is owned by Levy Restaurants. Also that list is only accounts for self reporting restaurants and not all restaurants.

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