The owners of Papi imported these doors from Old San Juan in Puerto Rico that date to 1890. The city said they had to be removed because they don’t meet historic district standards. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Portland will reevaluate its decision to order a Puerto Rican restaurant to remove a pair of antique doors from its Old Port entrance.

The city had told the owners of Papi that the 132-year-old, hand-carved mahogany doors that they installed at 18 Exchange St. did not comply with historic district standards, and were installed without the proper approval.

City Councilors learned Monday that staff will be reconsidering that decision and that the doors will stay put in the meantime, city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said.

Grondin said there were other compliance issues with the restaurant, which she did not specify, and said that the city is trying to iron out those matters with the owners.

The news comes after the Press Herald reported Papi was ordered to remove the doors. 

Josh Miranda, one of the owners of Papi, was conciliatory Monday after learning the decision will be reviewed.


“I have nothing bad to say about the city,” he said. “The city didn’t do anything wrong. They’ve been working with me.”

Miranda did say he hopes to be able to retain the doors. He said he wasn’t able to gauge his customers’ reaction to the city’s move to take another look at its initial decision because the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but Miranda said Papi seemed to be getting a lot of support online.

“A lot of people love the doors,” he said. “We’re not tying to get in a battle with City Hall – we’re trying to promote a culture and a cuisine.”

At Monday night’s city council meeting, resident Steven Scharf asked the council during a public comment period to reach out to the restaurant and tell them the doors can remain in place.

“Can you tell me where in the Old Port anything is historically accurate?” Scharf asked the council. “I’m sure you can walk around and find other non-historically accurate doors.”

He encouraged the council to be accommodating to Papi.


“The doors are beautiful and I have no idea why anyone would object to them,” Scharf said.

Evan Schueckler, the city’s historic preservation program manager, said the doors didn’t meet the standards for alterations in a historic district and that the change also would have required approval from his office. Papi is located in the Waterfront (Old Port) Historic District, one of 12 historic districts in the city.

Papi co-founder LyAnna Sanabria said last week that the restaurant brought the doors from Old San Juan in Puerto Rico and they were meant to reflect the culture and vibe of the restaurant.

They replaced a single, wooden door with a glass upper half. Before that, there had been wooden double doors with three-quarters length glass panes.

Some city councilors on Monday expressed dissatisfaction on social media with the city officials’ original decision.

“Having Papi remove their door because it doesn’t reflect the history of Exchange Street is to further push a colonial narrative that dictates whose history is important,” City Councilor Victoria Pelletier said in an Instagram post. “It’s wild that we continue to hold businesses to these ridiculous and oppressive design standards without consideration of cultural significance.”


Councilor Andrew Zarro also posted about the decision on Instagram, saying the situation is an example of city policies that need updating.

“While it may seem counter, historic preservation needs modernization not just for aesthetics or cultural heritage, but for measurable reasons like our Electrify Everything program,” Zarro wrote. He said historic preservation can restrict the installation of heat pumps and solar panels because of the visual impact from the street.

“That is bureaucratic, antiquated and counterproductive to our stated goals,” Zarro wrote. “We can have beautifully preserved buildings with culturally diverse businesses all while we incentivize beneficial electrification.”

Mayor Kate Snyder said after Monday’s meeting that she had only just learned of the decision by city staff, but her sense was that it was based on a strict interpretation of the historic district standards and that it will be reviewed.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

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