The owners of the restaurant — the chef is up for a James Beard Foundation award this year — announced Friday they are closing it for good. Staff Photo

Peter and Orenda Hale, owners of Drifters Wife in Portland, announced on social media Friday that they are closing the restaurant for good.

“After 5 years in business, as of last fall, we were finally debt free,” the couple wrote.

“Now, just months into the Covid pandemic, that is no longer the case. We need to adapt to what is happening in the world right now.”

The Hales said they plan to keep their restaurant space at 59 Washington Avenue, “but need to re-imagine what’s inside.”

Drifters Wife made Bon Appetit’s list of America’s Best New Restaurants in 2018, and the magazine named it one of the “Hot 10” restaurants in the United States as well, just a week after Portland was awarded the title of Restaurant City of the Year. Chef Ben Jackson is a finalist for a James Beard Award this year in the category “Best Chef: Northeast.” The chef earned 4.5 stars from the Maine Sunday Telegram’s restaurant critic in 2018.

Drifters Wife closed in March when the pandemic reached Maine, tried offering takeout in April, but then closed again in late May. In an interview last month, Orenda Hale said that stopping and starting a small restaurant is not only expensive, it’s hard on the staff.

“They have to jump off unemployment, and not all of them are able to jump back on quickly,” she said. “It could take three to four weeks for them to get an unemployment check.”

The restaurant had eight employees.

Orenda Hale also said they had heard from a lot of their customers that they would be reluctant to return to the restaurant too soon.

The Hales said their wine shop, Maine & Loire, will continue to offer contact-free, curbside pickup until the time is right to reopen it.


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