A sign along Brighton Avenue letting drivers know about a new European-style pub, The Continental. Michael Barbuto, who is a co-owner of The Continental – as well as CBG and Nosh – said he hoped to opened at the end of the summer but now is aiming for the end of the year. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The buttery, flaky croissants that have drawn food tourists to Munjoy Hill for five years would have been baked fresh by the thousand by now, if Belleville’s Forest Avenue production bakery had opened as planned.

The Portland bakery has been leasing the space for 14 months, but first the walk-in cooler order got canceled, then the custom oven was delayed. The opening that was planned for June is now looking like it will happen in November.

Many of the region’s anticipated restaurant and food shop openings this year have become bogged down by big delays, reflecting the hard reality that Belleville ran into headlong. In sum: Workers everywhere and the things they produce are in short supply and running late.

The general shortages have played some part in dragging out anticipated launches all around the Portland area, from Thai restaurant Mitr on outer Congress Street to Brighton Avenue ice cream shop Twin Swirls, the Freeport location of Goodfire Brewing Co. and A&C Soda Shop in South Portland. It isn’t just affecting small local business owners, either – even the regional New Hampshire-based breakfast restaurant chain, The Friendly Toast, faced some lag with permitting before opening this month on Fore Street.

The slowdowns have proved so pervasive and systemic that owners say the best they can do is accept the reality and adjust their timelines accordingly. They realize their openings have been delayed because many things in many places have been held up, one way or another.

Since opening on North Street in 2017, Belleville has built a reputation for producing some of the finest baked goods around, including pastries and Roman-style pizza. Word of plans for a second location – a production bakery with a small retail space that would practically quadruple Bellville’s output – set mouths drooling all over town.


But then came the supply-chain issues. Owner Chris Deutsch had his walk-in cooler order canceled by the manufacturer, which was backlogged and unable to meet demand. His rotating rack oven and proofing gear took four months longer to arrive from Europe than it normally would.

Even after the equipment arrived, delays persisted. Belleville had assembly and operational troubles with the custom ovens, tacking on several weeks more before Deutsch could find a qualified technician to tend to them.

Deutsch remains admirably upbeat, especially for someone who has been paying rent on an unopened space for more than a year. “We’re pushing to make as much as we can through these last six months (at the North Street location), and it’s gone very well, but we’re ready to take that next step,” he said.


Chaval co-owners Ilma Lopez and Damian Sansonetti had originally hoped to open their new bakeshop and cafe, The Ugly Duckling, in Portland’s West End by June, offering buttermilk English muffins in the morning and switching to cocktails and charcuterie in the afternoon. But the path to launching has been replete with holdups and snags, Lopez said, including a 20-week wait for a stove, because of supply-chain problems.

Ilma Lopez, owner of the Ugly Duckling – the not-yet-ready bakeshop and cafe that was supposed to open in June. Several restaurant openings have been delayed because of everything from permitting holdups to pandemic-related supply and labor shortages. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“There’s not a single company that has enough staff to do something in the timeframe you need,” Lopez said. “It’s the same at Chaval – we can’t open the full dining room, can’t open seven days a week because we don’t have enough people. If you think about, this whole country is in the same boat. So I can’t really complain that it’s just me waiting for the oven.”


Like Deutsch, Lopez now plans a November opening for the space she has already been renting for months. But she said she’s come to accept that the timeframe is beyond her control, and that the delay may actually be what she needs, since Chaval is understaffed and needs her attention now as well.

“We’re OK,” Lopez said. “It’s not worth getting frustrated about it.”

As for the strain the delay has placed on Belleville’s books, Deutsch said, he’s counting blessings there, too. “We’ve had to kind of restructure a few things. But we’ve been fortunate enough where our retail at North Street has somewhat kept us afloat.

“There’s really not much you can do,” Deutsch continued. “Regardless, we all are running up against those logistical issues.”

Joe Fournier, who is reopening the former Portland market A&C Grocery as A&C Soda Shop on Cottage Road in South Portland, said he’d originally planned to launch in July. Now, like Deutsch and Lopez, he’s on track for November.

“We started work on the space in February, and we haven’t even had a floor in until about three weeks ago. It was all supply-chain issues, that’s where we got hung up,” Fournier said.


Michael Barbuto inside the space that will be a European-style pub, The Continental. Partners Ian MacGregor, Kevin Doyle and Barbuto first laid their plans 14 months ago. Progress has been held up by unexpected delays, mostly with the building permit process. Barbuto said his contractor told him as soon as they have the required permits, “things are going to start moving quickly.” The trio is now looking at opening before the end of the year. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Partners Michael Barbuto, Kevin Doyle (co-owners of CBG on Congress Street in Portland) and Ian MacGregor first hatched their plan to open The Continental 14 months ago. They settled on a 2,200-square-foot location on Portland’s Brighton Avenue that needed new equipment and a full remodeling inside.

The Continental was conceived as a passion project of sorts for the partners, who felt pulled by nostalgia for the British- and Irish-style pubs they loved while coming of age in the mid-’90s in and around Boston. The team envisioned The Continental as a mirrored mahogany bar kind of place with dark leather booths and club chairs, Europub comfort food – meat pies, scotch eggs, fish and chips, Irish breakfast – and pints filled with Guinness, Bass Ale, Old Speckled Hen or Boddingtons.

“The whole experience was sort of magical to a guy who was just turning 21 at that place in time,” Barbuto said.

They first hoped to be open in July. “It was probably naive and short-sighted, but we were hoping,” Barbuto said. But unexpected delays, mostly with the building permit process, led the partners to revise the expected launch to sometime before the end of the year.

“I have a birthday in late September, and I thought I’d be running this business by that time,” Barbuto said. “Even in April that seemed doable.”

Barbuto said his team figured the permitting authorities at City Hall were understaffed, leading to longer turnarounds on various applications.


Mike Barbuto locks the doors of the space that will be The Continental. “I have a birthday in late September, and I thought I’d be running this business by that time,” Barbuto said. “Even in April that seemed doable.” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

But according to Portland city spokesperson Jessica Grondin, who acknowledged staff shortages, permitting authorities have not caused any unusual delays in Portland restaurant openings this summer or fall.

Barbuto conceded that both his team and their general contractor, Portland-based Oceanside Property Management and Construction, are relatively new to the city’s permitting procedures.

“Maybe it’s just a slow process, maybe six months is typical,” Barbuto said. “It seems long for me, because there aren’t a lot of landlords willing to forgive rent for more than two or three months.”

Barbuto said his contractor has told him as soon as they receive the required permits, “things are going to start moving quickly.” Still, The Continental has been paying full rent since May 1, which puts pressure on him and his team.

“We’re trying to keep a good attitude about it,” he said. “Nobody put a gun to our heads. We chose this. We’re working real hard. But we’d like our stress to shift to what specials we’re running tonight, or if anyone has fixed the running toilet as opposed to things like, are the bathrooms built yet. Just normal restaurant stuff.”

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