PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - A popular music venue in Portland is closing on Easter Sunday, to open again in a few months under new ownership.
Empire Dine And Dance on Congress Street has been bought by a Maine restauranteur and one of the founders of SPACE gallery, a prominent art and performance venue.
Bill Umbel has owned Empire since late in 2007. Under his ownership, it has grown into an important jumping-off point for local musicians trying to attract an audience.
Umbel says he's looking to do something new with his life. So he's selling the place and taking his guitar and mandolin on a road trip for a couple months.
Theresa Chan and Todd Bernard plan to buy the bar. They'll turn the downstairs into a dim sum Chinese food restaurant. The upstairs, they say, will remain a music venue.
The location at 575 Congress Street was originally a Chinese restaurant when it first opened after World War I.
Musicians like the rapper Wisdom, who released his debut album at the bar Saturday night, say they owe their careers to the bar, "The people I've met and the people that have encouraged me all around the city and at Empire... [it is] one of the only reasons I am rapping."
Two Maine bands are playing the closing night: North of Nashville and Saccarappa Boys. The latter are significant because they were the first band to play at Empire.