Tempo Dulu at the Danforth serves Southeast Asian cuisine and was featured in national publications. Guests have been pampered from the moment they sit down, starting with warm, perfumed hand towels. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

The owners of the Danforth Inn in Portland are closing Tempo Dulu and Opium, the inn’s swanky restaurant and bar. They say the decision to close the businesses after March 31 is not connected to the inn’s impending foreclosure auction.

Raymond Brunyanszki, co-owner of the inn, said the businesses were not profitable enough and that a “disconnect” existed between the guests staying at the inn and people dining at the restaurant. He also cited the difficulty of finding qualified staff familiar with Southeast Asian cuisine.

The Danforth Inn and its sister property, the Camden Harbour Inn, are scheduled for foreclosure auctions March 29, but Brunyanszki said in an interview Tuesday that the businesses will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of this week, which will take those auctions off the table. He said Tempo Dulu and Opium would have closed regardless of difficulties with Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, which financed the inns.

Brunyanszki called the foreclosure auctions an “unnecessary step” and a “very aggressive” move by the bank. “I think we, from both sides, lost trust in each other,” he said.

The bank’s corporate office in Bar Harbor did not respond to a message left there Tuesday.

Brunyanszki said he and his partner, Oscar Verest, have total assets that are, conservatively, worth more than $12 million and their loan was for $5.4 million, “so it’s not even 50 percent of all our assets.” He said they plan to be out of bankruptcy by July at the latest.

Tempo Dulu opened in 2015. Guests were pampered from the moment they sat down, getting warm hand towels perfumed with jasmine and frangipani, then dining on dishes such as Beef Rendang and Bumbu Bali Halibut Steamed in Banana Leaf. Eating there could take a big bite out of some people’s budget, with dinner for two and drinks easily costing as much as $200 to $250.

The Danforth Inn, which has nine rooms, will continue to operate as a luxury inn, and Opium will still serve cocktails to inn guests, although it may not continue under that controversial name. Staff photo by Joel Page

Opium followed in 2017, inciting much controversy over its name, which caused an uproar on social media. Some people believed the name was inappropriate given the state’s opioid crisis; others thought the concept of mimicking “a Shanghai opium den of the ’20s” was culturally insensitive.

Brunyanszki said the bar also had its supporters, but at the end of the day “some business might not have come to us because of the name.” He said the bar’s limited space and the small number of cocktails it served made it more of an amenity in the inn than a big part of the business.

“The restaurant is the biggest unit of the two, and even if it is successful it still doesn’t really add up,” he said.

The biggest challenge confronting the restaurant and bar, Brunyanszki said, was that the market for high-end Southeast Asian cuisine is “just too niche” for Portland. Many restaurants in Maine struggle during the slow winter months, but he said Tempo Dulu actually fared better at that time; in the summer, the inn’s guests wanted to dine outside, visit breweries or eat at other hot restaurants in town. Visitors to Maine weren’t looking for Southeast Asian food, he said.

Brunyanszki said that although 99 percent of the guests who stay at the Camden Harbour Inn (which holds a prestigious Relais & Châteaux designation) dine at Natalie’s, the inn’s restaurant, only 30 percent of the guests at the Danforth Inn ate at Tempo Dulu. Ultimately, the Portland businesses were “so marginal it doesn’t make sense to continue,” he said.

“Tempo Dulu did well,” Brunyanszki said. “We just don’t see any growth, and we do need growth with the rising cost of labor and products.”

Although some of the restaurant’s staff found other positions within the company, three people – two in the kitchen and one front-of-the-house staffer – will lose their jobs, Brunyanszki said.

The Danforth, which has nine rooms, will continue to operate as a luxury inn, and Opium will still serve cocktails to inn guests, although it may not continue under that name.

Brunyanszki said the company has not yet decided whether it will open a different restaurant at the Danforth, lease out the space or continue to operate the inn without a restaurant. He said the company will focus on Natalie’s this summer, then re-evaluate its options for the Danforth next winter.

Both Tempo Dulu and Opium have been featured in such national publications as Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Conde Nast Traveler. Opium was well known for a particular smoky cocktail called the Jakarta, which was named best cocktail in the country by Starchefs in 2015.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad