Anti-abortion protesters force Portland’s rock ’n’ roll deli to close

Posted Aug. 11, 2013, at 10:07 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 11, 2013, at 11:41 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The home of the rock ’n’ roll sandwich is about to play its last tune.

Mike’s Restaurant on Congress Street closes next week after three years of providing patrons affordable meals and a place to rock out.

“It will be a sad day when they close,” said Chris Mitchell, waiting at the counter as an Allman Brothers song ripped through the funky space.

For three years, the Sun Life Financial employee has started his mornings with a breakfast burrito here. After next week, “I will have to bring something to work,” he said. “That will make life less enjoyable.”

Behind the counter, owner Mike Fink is not sad, but relieved.

For the last year Fink has been fighting anti-abortion advocates protesting outside Planned Parenthood, a few steps away, on Friday and Saturday mornings.

This has snowballed into a contentious issue and the city is expected to decide whether to create a patient safety zone outside the health center this fall. But for Fink, time has run out.

“I decided kids holding signs of dead babies isn’t good for business,” he said.

Though sales have suffered since protesters have targeted his block, he is closing for personal reasons, too.

“It’s not just the business, it’s me,” he said. “I gave up yelling.”

Fink, who also owns Guitar Grave next door, envisioned a comfortable place where musicians could gather over coffee and eat sandwiches, named after local bands, for a few short bucks. When the protesters showed up with shocking signs, yelling and chasing away patients walking into the health center — sometimes standing in front of his shop — that dream faded.

“I’m disappointed and tired of being upset,” said Fink. “God is on their side, they know that.”

A protester outside Planned Parenthood on Friday was irritated when asked about the deli’s closing.

“He’s a liar,” said a middle-aged bearded man carrying an anti-abortion sign with graphic images.

Standing guard in a pink vest, Eric Covey, a grass-roots organizer for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said this has become business as usual. There to make sure patients are not harassed by protesters as they enter the clinic, he lamented the situation.

“It’s really unfortunate that it’s had an effect on customers at other businesses,” he said.

Stopping into Mike’s for the first time Friday, Robert Horn, a mason on lunch break, was disturbed to hear why the deli was closing.

“The circumstance is ridiculous,” he said. “People need better hobbies than to infringe on other people’s decisions.”

For regular Katie Dionne, next Friday’s closing will hurt.

“I’m a little devastated,” she said of the shop, where you can still get a cup of coffee for $1 and breakfast sandwich for $1.99. “It’s a rare find for Portland. There are not a lot of spots like this left.”

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