PORTLAND — Grace, the beautiful restaurant in an 1856 Gothic Revival Church on Chestnut Street, will serve its last meal Dec. 31, the owner has announced.

Anne Rutherford said Tuesday that she wants to focus on hosting events. She said the church holds 50 weddings a year, in addition to corporate events, bar mitzvahs and other affairs. “You name it, we’ve done it,” she said.

Rutherford said she turns away “a ton of events,” and is ready to shutter the full-service restaurant portion of the business in favor of expanding the events department. She’s also looking forward to the lifestyle change that will come with it. Rutherford has been running Grace since it opened in 2009, and she also owns another restaurant, the Foreside Tavern in Falmouth.

“It just became too much to do,” she said. “I’ve been in this business 17 years. There’s only so many ideas you can come up with. You can keep it fresh as long as you can keep it fresh.”

Customers who want to hold special events at the church-turned-restaurant have their choice of venues — the downstairs great room, or the upstairs restaurant. The entire restaurant space can be bought out for the evening, but Rutherford limits that to once a month so it doesn’t interfere too much with the operation of the restaurant. Starting next year, both spaces will be available year-round, and two events can be scheduled at once.

Rutherford said two of her current employees will be partners in the revamped events business.


“A lot of the staff has been there with us for the majority of the time we’ve been open, and we’re all ready for the next step,” Rutherford said. “We’ve totally committed to this.”

By press time, Rutherford did not respond to a question about how many employees would lose their jobs when the restaurant closes.

The huge church was designed by architect Charles Alexander and was home to a Methodist church for most of its 162 years. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2009, Rutherford and her now ex-husband transformed the building into a restaurant, where customers can dine under stained glass windows and eat food prepared in an open kitchen that occupies the former altar.

In 2016, after a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Rutherford posted her gun control sentiments on Facebook and told supporters of assault weapons they weren’t welcome in her restaurants. She took some backlash for her stance, and later held a meeting with local gun owners to explain her position.

Rutherford tried to sell the church earlier this year, with the intent of keeping her businesses there, but later changed her mind and took it off the market.

She announced the new arrangement Monday on Facebook, “with bittersweet emotions.”

“When we breathed new life into this historic building in 2009, it breathed life back into me,” Rutherford wrote. “I will be forever grateful to guests who touched our lives, colleagues within the industry for their support and most of all my staff, past and present. Grace is more than just a restaurant. We have been a family that was connected by this beautiful building and made it our own. … It was truly the most fun I’ve ever had.”

Grace usually hosts special events in its downstairs great room or its upstairs restaurant, but not in both at the same time. Starting next year, two events can be scheduled at once. (John Ewing/Portland Press Herald)

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