Protestors, led by former State Senator Anne Rand, stood quietly outside the Front Room restaurant on the Hill at lunchtime today as Valentine’s Day diners inside the controversial eatery enjoyed a holiday lunch. The dozen or so protestors held signs asking for overtime pay, justice and for the owner, Harding Smith, to meet with the Restaurants Opportunities Center of Maine to try and resolve the “bad business practices” of which Smith has been accused.
Meanwhile, Front Room bar tender Bob Murphy, sat on a barstool at the front door of the restaurant passing out copies of a letter to the editor in which he and others defended Smith’s business practices. The letter appeared in the “Portland Press Herald” on January 11th. “I’m sick of this (expl. deleted) ROC group bothering our customers,” Murphy said before re-entering the restaurant.
“We are not trying to hurt his business,” said Rand. “This is not a boycott. We just want Mr. Smith to sit down with us and try to resolve the issues laid out in the complaint. We want to highlight the greatness of our restaurants and the skilled workers who work in them. March is restaurant month and there are some planned events to emphasize the great workforce in our restaurants,” Rand added. The ROC group stayed for almost an hour.
Inside the crowded restaurant where MHN ate lunch, most of the customers seemed oblivious to the protestors. Bruce Frick, Yarmouth, said: “There are two sides to every story. I don’t know all the facts, but I would believe that it is important to give both sides a fair chance to be heard. However, I wouldn’ stop eating at the Front Room.” When he tipped his waitress, he quipped with her over whether he should leave cash or not, to be certain she doesn’t get ripped off by management. When MHN left, there was a line waiting to be seated.
The Restaurant Opportunities of Maine filed a complaint on behalf of a number of defendans in the U.S. District Court here in Portland in early January. Charles Eislinger, Pierce Atwood, has filed an appearance on behalf of his client, Smith. Smith also owns two other popular restaurans in the area: The Corner Room and the Grill Room.
For background information on the subject please read post # 368, dated January 9th and post # 365, dated January 7th.