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‘Other’ L.L. Bean closes cafe at Maine Mall in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — After a year and a half of serving local lobster to Maine Mall patrons, Linda Bean’s Lobster Boat Cafe has pulled up its traps and closed.

Linda Lorraine Bean, granddaughter of L.L. Bean founder Leon Leonwood Bean, in recent years has branded the coastal Maine experience with a series of Maine-made hospitality, wholesale and restaurant businesses.

Her hospitality brand, Perfect Maine, includes cottage rentals, boat tours off the coast of Port Clyde, “Wyeths by Water,” led by Bean herself, and general stores in Port Clyde, Tenants Harbor and St. George. Bean also offers wedding and reception venues through Perfect Maine.

Under Bean’s restaurant brand, Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Kitchen, she operates six restaurants in Portland, Freeport and Port Clyde.

In a telephone message last week, Bean attributed the closing of the Lobster Boat Cafe to a lack of viable tourist traffic in the mall.

“I can tell you that the eateries in the mall operate in a dynamic and primarily non-tourist market, and we find we do better for Maine lobster where there’s a hard percentage of tourism movement,” Bean said.

She said other Maine Kitchens in more tourist-heavy areas have considerably higher success rates, including one at the Portland International Jetport, and the Maine Kitchen & Topside Tavern and the Lobster Roll at L.L.Bean, both in Freeport.

“All enjoy robust traffic year-round, in contrast with the one at the mall,” she said. She called the decision to close the mall location “proactive.”

Bean said her relationship with mall managers has been “really, truly excellent. They couldn’t have been more supportive of the lobster boat concept.”

The lease was for three years, but Bean said it’s her “full intention to pay (the) full rent agreement for the next year and a half, even though we’re gone.”

Bean, an outspoken conservative who has opposed abortion rights, gay rights legislation and gun control, also said the impacts felt from the “looming business-wide pressure of Obamacare payments has resulted in tightening our belts with lobster and hospitality businesses.”

She said she has put a freeze on new hiring and has refrained from replacing some “top-salary positions.”

Mall manager Craig Gorris did not respond to a request for comment about whether a business is poised to replace the cafe in the highly visible space near Bon-Ton, H&M, Starbucks and Sports Authority.

Bean said she purchases approximately 8 million pounds of seafood annually from Maine docks, and “will continue to vigorously explore new markets for Maine lobster and for Maine fisherman.”

 Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

An employee at the Maine Mall in South Portland secures a covering over the space that used to house Linda Bean’s Lobster Boat Cafe.