Cafe Miranda, a landmark Rockland restaurant that has served innovative, fun food for nearly 30 years will close on Saturday, June 25, “failing some miraculous turn of events,” according to owner and founder Kerry Altiero.
The reason is the labor shortage, he said, and the specific miracle he is seeking is to have two qualified cooks land on his doorstep, ready to get to work.
At this point, that doesn’t seem very likely to happen, he said.
“I think it’s very sad that we’re closing,” Altiero, 66, said. “What I think is much sadder is the state our industry is in. Some people are doing fine. Other people are not doing fine, if you can’t find the help to stay open and meet your fixed costs.”
Before the pandemic, Cafe Miranda was open seven days a week, closing just three days a year, he said. Right now, he has enough staff to open only three days a week: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. And even though the restaurant does well on those days, it’s just not enough to pay the bills.
Altiero opened the restaurant when Rockland was a gritty town with a dubious reputation. The imminent closure, he said, is breaking his heart — and also, he believes, is a grim warning for the state’s hospitality industry as a whole.
Among the endemic, hard-to-solve labor problems that plague the industry, he said, are the state’s aging workforce, the housing crisis, the lack of childcare for workers, student debt and lack of a sustainable career path.
“I sound like a socialist. I’m not,” he said. “It’s that our industry and a lot of other ones are in trouble.”
Although he and other chefs of his generation helped put Maine on the culinary map, thanks to innovations like farm-to-table dining, the use of creative ingredients and more, they haven’t done everything.
“What we didn’t do is solve the labor problem,” he said.
All of this means that the restaurant known for its eclectic vibe and wide-ranging menu, where patrons feast on everything from handmade pasta to wood-fired pizza and Asian-inspired fare surrounded by pink flamingos and Elvis decor, is likely to close its doors after two more weekends.
Over the years, Altiero estimates that he’s hired “hundreds and hundreds” of people. Right now, he has 12 to 15 people on his payroll.
“Shoutout to the crew that’s there now, and the crew that’s been there,” he said. “This place has bought so many people’s houses and raised so many kids. That’s the legacy.”
The legacy of the restaurant means a lot to him, he wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon that was shared more than 160 times in just two hours.
“What we have is a great crew, a great place, the best customers in the best town, but what we don’t have is enough employees to be open more than three days a week,” he said. “The future is in process. Stay tuned. Visit us over the next two weeks. We want to hear from you. We know that Miranda means a lot to this community. You have meant the world to us.”