Sunday, April 20, 2014
By Randy Billings firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTLAND — The owner of Mike's Restaurant is making good on his promise to close his business because of what he says is the effect of weekly anti-abortion protests in the area.
Portland businessman Mike Fink, right, passes anti-abortion Pastor Jeremy Hiltz of Chelsea during a counter-protest on Congress Street in Portland in January. Fink said Monday he is closing his nearby deli because of the effect of the weekly protests on his business.
2013 Press Herald File Photo / John Patriquin
Mike Fink said in May he was putting his business at 437 Congress St. up for sale and might simply close the doors because the city would not move forward with a buffer zone that would push protesters away from the Planned Parenthood clinic at 443 Congress St. and his business.
Fink said Monday that he was unable to find a buyer for his business, so he is closing it on Friday.
For more than a year, between 10 and 20 anti-abortion protesters with large signs of aborted fetuses have gathered in front of Planned Parenthood on Fridays and occasionally Saturdays and recited Bible verses to patients entering the clinic.
"A few people came in and talked about it but gave up," said Fink, who warned potential buyers of his business about the protesters. "Nobody wanted to open a restaurant where people hold signs of dead babies out front."
Fink also owns the Guitar Grave, which is next door to the deli. The Guitar Grave will stay in business, but starting next week will open at noon on Fridays and Saturdays to avoid the protesters.
Fink has been a vocal opponent of the protesters. In December, he organized a counterprotest, which brought out dozens of pro-choice supporters.
Fink admitted the deli "was never very profitable," but he continues to blame the anti-abortion protesters for scaring off customers.
"I just gave up," he said. "I spent too much time thinking bad things about (the protesters)."
Protesters have expressed skepticism that they caused the deli, which opened in August 2010, to close.
Leslie Sneddon, who helps organize the weekly anti-abortion protests, suggested that business must not have been very good in general if Fink relied so heavily on an hour and a half's worth of business every Friday and the occasional Saturday.
"We can only speculate on why he's really closing," Sneddon said. "It's between him and the Lord."
In May, the deli was the subject of an inspection prompted by a complaint. A customer observed unsanitary practices, which were also observed by a city health inspector. Fink was also found to have been operating with a food service license that expired six days before the inspection.
The City Council's Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee recently took up the proposed buffer zone, which would push back protesters 35 feet from the Planned Parenthood clinic.
The committee expressed concerns about balancing the First Amendment rights of protesters with patients' rights to receive medical treatment and the prospect of becoming embroiled in an expensive lawsuit.
The committee is expected to revisit the buffer zone issue in October.
Fink said Monday that's too little, too late -- especially since any buffer zone would likely face a legal challenge by protesters.
"I don't have the patience to wait 16 to 30 months," he said.
Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: