For 18 years, Margaritas in Portland turned out reliable nachos, quesadillas, and colorful tequila drinks to hungry gringos. Last week the large brick expanse off Congress Street unceremoniously closed. Will condos rise where chimichangas were slung?
“We owned the building and got an offer from a developer,” the company’s marketing team manager Michael Caldwell told Urban Eye this week. Though business was steady, “it was the right move at the right time for us.”
Caldwell would not divulge who the new owner of 11 Brown Street is, but did say the closing was this week. The Portsmouth, N.H.-based chain has a second Margaritas on St. John Street in Portland. That location added lunch this week to fill in the gap. We wondered if higher end places like Zapoteca, and the mind-numbing creative dining options in Portland has rendered family dining spots like Margaritas obsolete?
“There is a lot of competition in Portland and the way that Portland is structured, with the minimum wage thing, it is hard to operate a restaurant in Portland,” he said, referring to the November ballot proposal to significantly increase the hourly wage of tipped workers.
But the casual cantina is not giving up on the area. Far from it. “We are looking to open another location in the Greater Portland area,” said Caldwell. Unloading the building, most of the top floors were underutilized, gives them the “flexibility to pursue that growth.” Margaritas, is “not abandoning the community. We are still alive and well in Portland and happy to be there.”
Still closing a store, they have 22 in New England, is highly unusual for Margaritas. “This is the first restaurant we’ve closed in the five years I’ve been with the company,” he said. “It’s always a little sadness when you close a location.”
The company expects to open outside Portland early next year.