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Portland restaurant owner says abortion protests forcing him to close

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Portland restaurant owner says abortion protests forcing him to close

PORTLAND — A downtown business owner who organized counter-protests against anti-abortion demonstrators near his restaurant said he will close the business this summer.

Mike Fink owns Mike's Restaurant, at 437 Congress St., and Guitar Grave, a pawn shop and music store, at 441 Congress St. Both businesses are in the same building as the Portland clinic of Planned Parenthood, at 443 Congress St.

Since last summer, about two dozen protesters have gathered outside the clinic on Fridays, the day the clinic – which offers a range of reproductive health care – provides abortion services.

Fink has said the protesters harass passersby, including his customers, with shouting and aggressive pamphleteering. The protesters often carry signs showing aborted fetuses.

Now, Fink has had enough.

"I have decided to sell or close the restaurant and open (Guitar Grave) later on those days after the anti-abortion protesters have gone," he said last week. "I still believe these anti-abortion protesters are obnoxious and wrong."

On Monday, he said the changes for both businesses would probably take place in August, when his lease on the restaurant expires. Meanwhile, he's trying sell his equipment and inventory for $10,000.

But he's not optimistic about finding a buyer.

"I lowered the price drastically, just because I don't think anyone's going to buy (the restaurant)," he said. "It's the wrong kind of business to have signs with pictures of dead babies nearby."

The anti-abortion protests usually last for about two hours on Fridays and some Saturdays, starting at about 8:30 a.m. The restaurant, a popular breakfast spot, opens at 8 a.m.

Guitar Grave, which now opens at 10 a.m., will probably open at noon or 1 p.m. on Fridays, Fink said.

Last winter Fink attracted widespread attention for staging what he called "anti-anti-abortion" rallies, in which he asked people to carry signs or honk car horns to show their opposition to the anti-abortion demonstrations.

More than 100 people, including dozens of protesters on both sides of the divisive abortion issue, showed up for the dueling demonstrations on Jan. 4. But after several more of the counter-protests, Fink said, "things just got worse."

He eventually called off his protests.

"The more I protested, the more people came, and the worse it got for clients (of Planned Parenthood) and my customers," he said. "So I decided I needed to ignore the protesters. It's like reverse psychology."

While there have been no reports of violence in Portland involving the abortion opponents, the city has considered creation of a 35-foot protest-free buffer zone around the clinic entrance. Fink attended a meeting last December with Mayor Michael Brennan and other city officials to explore that possibility.

States including Massachusetts have banned protests within such zones. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has already warned the city to "tread carefully" to make sure that the rights of the protesters and the clinic's clients are protected.

And since the December meeting, there's been no decision about creating a buffer zone in Portland, a result that Fink said made him "very disappointed."

For another business on the block, Antoine's Tailor Shop & Formal Wear at 435 Congress St., the protests are less of a problem.

"It hasn't really affected us," said Perry Perkins, assistant to the store owner, noting that his shop also opens at 10 a.m. "I can't say that (the protesters) are really loud, and it's been generally peaceful."

However, Perkins – who lives in an apartment in the building – said that there are occasional problems, and that residents often leave by the building's back door to avoid the protesters.

"A lot of us don't like it," he said. "I haven't heard a positive thing."

Perkins said he understands Fink's frustration.

"When the protests started, the first thing I thought about was Mike's, because that's a food place and those pictures are disgusting," he said. "I couldn't eat my food if I had to look at that."

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.