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NOT CLOSED - Village Cafe in its 70th year

Despite reports suggesting the contrary in the local daily newspaper, the Village Cafe, long a fixture restaurant on the east side of Portland's Old Port, is still open, and plans to stay open into the foreseeable future.

The property, owned by John Reali - the third generation of his family to own and operate the restaurant - is under contract to a developer who is seeking to build condominiums on the site. (The original proposal, for several buildings up to nine stories high housing as many as 250 condos selling for $500,000 each, has been toned down to four-story buildings with 185 condos selling for $300,000, according to an Associated Press report on WMTW.com.)

The sale has not been finalized, and if developer GFI Residential of Boston gets city approval the sale is "like a year and a half away," Reali says. Until then, he is keeping the restaurant open, and plans to continue the Village's traditions in a new space after that.

"The building was way too old, it's way too big, and it needs a lot of money" to be improved, Reali says. He is looking for a new space to be the possible future home of the Village. "I want to stay in Portland," he says.

He tells of one customer who, having read the news reports, stopped what had been a years-long tradition of coming to the Village once a week. Then one day the customer decided to check on the condo development, to see how the site was changing, but instead, found the restaurant open and running smoothly.

Reali says many customers have stopped coming to the restaurant, a favorite site of wedding rehearsals, school reunions, gatherings after funerals, and other family events. He's hoping to turn that around with a new campaign getting the word out that the restaurant is still open, in its 70th year. "It's a Portland tradition," he says.



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