Late November Closing for Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern

Fundraiser from GEM Adult services at Kelly's Outer Banks Tavern in 2016. Fundraising was a frequent activity at the bar.
Fundraiser from GEM Adult services at Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern in 2016. Fundraising was a frequent activity at the bar.
End of an Era Comes Sooner Than Expected

Last week Mike Kelly confirmed rumors that had been swirling about for some time—at  the end of November he will be closing Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern.

If there is a surprise in this, it is that the closing is coming much sooner than expected. Most observers felt Mike would keep his flagship operation open through the New Year to take full advantage of the revenues the end of year celebrations generate.

For at least a year, Mike has been in negotiations with Lidl, a German discount grocery chain. With almost five acres available, the lot is one of the few left that is considered suitable for a large standalone store.

For long-time visitors to the Outer Banks and residents, there is a sense of an end of an era. Kelly’s has always been for years the go to place to meet friends or catch some live music. Perhaps most significantly, Mike has always been generous with the use of his facility, working with a number of local nonprofit when they needed a place for a fundraiser.

Opened in 1985 after purchasing the original building, Kelly’s soon became the centerpiece of Outer Banks nightlife. With a large bar area, national acts could be booked on the Outer Banks.

As Kelly’s popularity grew, so did the need for more space and about 15 years ago, Mike doubled the capacity of his tavern.

It’s a mistake, though, to think Kelly’s is just a bar with entertainment. From the outset, the restaurant set a high bar for well-prepared food, an excellent wine list and outstanding service.

The success of the restaurant allowed Mike to expand, and the Kelly Hospitality Group now includes Pamlico Jack’s in Nags Head, Mako Mikes in Kill Devil Hills and Kelly’s Catering Services. There are no plans to close or discontinue any other of the operations.

Mike Kelly Negotiating Sale of Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern


Ending months, if not a couple of years, of speculation, Mike Kelly announced he is in negotiations to sell the property where Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern is located. In interviews with local newspapers and online reporting, he stressed that nothing is imminent, but it is apparent that he is ready to move on after 31 years of providing great food and entertainment on the Outer Banks.

Mike pointed out in interviews that none of his children are interested in taking over his business and that he felt now that he was approaching retirement age, this was the time to start pulling back.

Although he is in negotiations, the restaurant and tavern is booked through New Years, so no matter what, nothing is going to happen right away.

There are a rumors but no hard facts about who or what will be moving into the five acre site. Mike has made it clear that it will not be a chain restaurant, but beyond that, anything is speculation.

What the next business will be will be come more clear when the first set of tentative plans are presented to the Nags Head Planning Board, although at this point in time, nothing is scheduled.

Still up in the air is whether there are any plans to sell the other two restaurants in the Kelly’s Group, Mako Mikes and Pamlico Jacks.