Lilee’s Public House and Back Street Bistro closed their doors this summer, altering the restaurant landscape on Maine Street and making room for the arrival of new businesses.
Chris Pillsbury, a Brunswick native and the former owner of both restaurants, opened Back Street Bistro in 2004. Lilee’s, a less expensive alternative, opened four years later to increase revenues while Back Street Bistro struggled through the 2008 recession.
After three years, the profit from Lilee’s was not enough to support Back Street Bistro, according to a report by the Bangor Daily News.
Both restaurants closed last spring during the final weekend of May.
“I’m sad for the town and for the staff, especially at Lilee’s,” Pillsbury told Bangor Daily News just before the restaurants closed. “It’s one of those cool, comfortable places that I think Brunswick will be lacking.”
Local, a specialty foods store owned by Sharon Smiley, renovated the space vacated by Lilee’s and moved in during the beginning of July.
“We like to call it a country store for urban foodies,” said Matt Sanders, the green grocer who buys produce for Local.
“All our produce is locally grown, we get our baked goods from a bakery in Maine, and our beer section comes from mostly Maine and New England, but sometimes there is something too good to pass up from beyond,” said Sanders.
Sanders said that the new store has been well received by the community so far.
“Eight years ago, a similar shop called Provisions existed here, so now when people walk in they go, ‘Oh wow, we missed that!’ We’re not really trying to compete with anyone. There’s a little overlap that will happen naturally, but we’re really trying to keep in unique items,” he said.
Local’s management owns the space, and so the new store is immune from the rising rent that doomed Lilee’s.
At this point, nothing is slated to replace Back Street Bistro.
Frontier Café, which is located down the street in Fort Andross, reports an increase in business since Pillsbury’s two restaurants shut down.
“We’re definitely busier at nights and quite a bit just in general this summer,” said Frontier bartender Sara Perry.
Perry believes that major renovations to the restaurant, which occurred last November and December, are also responsible for the surge in business.
“We expanded the kitchen extensively, adding a grill and a full-service bar,” said Perry. “We were more of a café before—all we had was a panini press, so the food had to be pretty basic and simple. We served beer and wine before, but now we have 12 seats at the bar and more tables to serve.”
Perry also emphasizes that while the Frontier Café appeals to a clientele similar to Lilee’s or Back Street Bistro’s, they count on being more than just a restaurant.
“We’re a movie theater and a gallery as well, so that puts us in a different sort of box,” she said.
Further up on Maine Street, the Inn at Brunswick Station and the Brunswick Inn are engaged in a legal dispute over the similarity of their names.
The Brunswick Inn sued the Inn at Brunswick Station last March, claiming that its financial struggles stem from patrons confusing the two establishments.
The attorney for The Brunswick Inn, James Goggin, said the owners are looking for payment for damages and a name change.
“We can show that we have lost business,” Goggin told the Bangor Daily News, “but our primary focus is to have them change their name.”
Goggin predicts the case will be resolved in December of this year or early 2013.