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PORTLAND, Maine — The owner of a popular Old Port music and performance venue that has been closed since March because of the pandemic has put the business up for sale.
Karen Rich, a broker with Malone Commercial Brokers, called the venue “a pretty unique” spot, and said she already has received interest from local and national prospective buyers.
“The nicest part of that site is even during the COVID times you do have quite a bit of outdoor space,” she said.
Owner and operator Ken Bell hopes to keep the music venue and bar intact and sell it as a “turnkey operation.” Prospective buyers would assume the venue’s equipment and Bell’s client list and lease, which expires in May 2025.
Bell said the venue plans to reopen in September. It is unclear if Bell will remain with the venue in some capacity after the sale.
“I love what I do, and am open to staying, but we have built a strong business over the years and wanted to see what interest there is, which has been solid,” Bell said.
Portland House of Music is one of the largest independent music venues in the city.
Bell opened the two-level music venue, also known as Portland House of Music and Events or P.H.O.M.E., in June 2015. The venture immediately received support from many artists within Portland, who knew Bell from his days operating The Big Easy, a longtime music venue on nearby Market Street that hosted weekly open-mic rap nights along with jazz, funk and R&B groups.
Portland House of Music hosted live events most evenings, including comedy, burlesque and other live events when music wasn’t on the bill.
“No matter the venue, Ken was always completely willing to provide a space for me to perform,” said Sara Hallie Richardson, a Portland artist who performed many times at both venues. Richardson said that Bell “knew the perfect balance between businessman and friend” and “cared about the well being of his staff as well as the artists.”
A survey released in June by the National Independent Venue Association, which represents more than 2,000 venues nationwide, estimated that 90 percent of independent stages would be forced to close due to circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic without federal support.