This Portland, Maine, Church Almost Didn’t Become a New Bar Because of an Old Deed
You know that saying, something is too good to be true?
Well, for one couple in Portland who thought they found THE perfect spot for a new bar, that almost came true.
You've probably heard of Vena's Fizz House in Portland's Old Port on Fore Street, right? Johanna and Steve Corman opened it in 2013, according to a CNN article, and it quickly became a popular destination. So many creative and flavorful drinks there!
But then, of course, came the pandemic.
According to a Facebook post from Vena's Fizz House, the venue closed in January 2021 in part due to COVID-19.
Vena's co-owner, Johanna Corman, said in the post: “Our long term goal was to eventually scale and grow into a bigger space but the pandemic definitely forced our hand to make that decision earlier than we had planned.”
So where would be this new place for Vena's 2.0?
The deed sought to bar uses including instrumental music, choir concerts, politics and all “devices of uninspired men,” according to the Bangor Daily News.
Finding a spot was no small task. Portland's Old Port already has a lot of bars and restaurants, and rents are out of this world. How expensive is storefront rent in the area?
The cheapest rents the Cormans found were $6,000 to $9,000 per month with nothing included, according to the Bangor Daily News, and that's when they got super lucky and found an old 133-year-old church on Congress Street in Portland.
They could renovate it and their mortgage would be around $2,000 a month, the newspaper stated. Incredibly affordable in comparison.
So the new spot would be located at 867 Congress Street, according to a Facebook post from Vena's, and large enough for their expanded venture. And it's in an old church!
Two weeks before they were going to close on the property is when they found in the original deed handwritten notes about what the church could NOT be used for, the Bangor Daily News reported. And that was anything considered sinful.
Hmm. A cocktail bar sounds pretty sinful.
The original Church of Christ deed didn't want the property sold to anyone who wouldn't run it as a church, according to the newspaper.
That meant no "unholy music, festivals for the getting of money, voting or anything not plainly taught by the express precept or approved example of the apostles of Jesus Christ as the same are set forth in the holy writings called the New Testament," the BDN reported.
Yup. Time to call the lawyers.
Thankfully, they made an argument for why the new Vena's should be able to happen in the old church, according to the newspaper and the bank accepted. Voila!
The new bigger Vena's Fizz House was back on track.
And now we are definitely getting Vena's 2.0 at the Congress Street spot after that little hiccup for the Cormans.
The Cormans will keep the feeling of a church in their renovations, according to the BDN, and shoot for opening this summer.
“The new Vena’s 2.0 will hold all the nostalgic charm and passion for beverages and flavors that we are known for," Johanna Corman said in a Facebook post. "Additionally, the venue lends itself to events and we plan to offer a unique space for specialty occasions, and mixology classes.”
I met Steve Corman about four years ago at Vena's. I can't wait to see what he and Johanna turn this church into.