PORTLAND – Here’s another sign that Trader Joe’s is serious about coming to Portland.

The specialty food chain on Monday applied for city licenses to provide food service and sell beer and wine in the former Wild Oats store in Portland, according to City Clerk Linda Cohen.

That doesn’t mean that Trader Joe’s fanatics can finally exhale.

There’s still the matter of the Federal Trade Commission, which has yet to approve the sale of the store to Trader Joe’s.

In 2007, when natural-foods giant Whole Foods Markets Inc. purchased Wild Oats, the FTC said that the acquisition violated antitrust laws.

The FTC and Whole Foods later reached a settlement: An appointed trustee will sell leases for 19 closed Wild Oats stores and divest 13 open stores. One of the closed stores is the former Wild Oats store on Marginal Way in Portland.

Trader Joe’s would pay the sale price to the trustee, who would take a percentage as a fee and give the rest to Whole Foods, as in a normal business sale.

FTC spokesman Mitchell Katz said Monday the agency has yet to make a decision.

Public comment on the sale closed April 9. Katz said the decision has been delayed because the FTC must respond to every one of the 348 people who commented on the proposed sale.

In the meantime, as it awaits the FTC decision, Trader Joe’s can do whatever it wants to get ready to open the store, he said.

“But they can’t buy that asset until the FTC approves the sale,” he said.

An official from Trader Joe’s could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Portland store would be the first Trader Joe’s in Maine.

The company has 350 stores in 25 states and Washington, D.C.

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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