Gossip from 2005
By Chris Busby
December 19, 2005
Austin’s Boot & Buckle spared the boot
After making a point of bringing Austin’s Boot & Buckle Saloon’s request for renewal of its liquor and entertainment licenses before the city council (see the Dec. 5 Gossip item below), Mayor Jim Cohen found there was nothing to discuss after all. Portland police Lt. Janine Roberts, the cop in charge of bar issues, was on hand for tonight’s meeting, but no neighbors showed up to comment on the license renewal, and no councilors had questions about the request. After thanking the bar’s owners for working with the neighbors, Cohen and the councilors voted unanimously in favor of renewing the licenses for another year (Councilors Will Gorham and Cheryl Leeman were absent).
This is not to say the bar’s owners got off without punishment. Their renewal request was the last item on the council’s agenda, so they were forced to sit through a two-and-a-half-hour meeting before being dispatched with Cohen’s appreciation for comfort. As one muttered from the gallery shortly before the request was approved: “Life’s a bitch.”
If you think the school board’s juvenile now…
Registered members of the Green Independent Party may be on the verge of constituting a majority of the Portland School Committee, but Democrats could have a wild card up their sleeve. Joshua Waxman, the student representative to the board from Portland High School, is the son of local Donkey Party activist Dori Waxman, a past chair of the Democratic City Committee.
Like his fellow board members, Waxman did not run for his seat as a member of a political party (the School Committee is officially non-partisan; plus, Waxman was elected by fellow students). Furthermore, the two student reps’ votes are noted but do not count during board meetings.
However, Waxman’s predecessor in the one-year post, Sophia Njaa, went through the early stages of a school board run this past fall before dropping the idea – Njaa, who had the early support of some big local Dems, said she wanted to focus on college.
It’s unclear where Waxman’s political preferences fall on the spectrum. The Bollard has a policy against hectoring minors about politics; plus, Waxman was warned by board member Jonathan Radtke, a Democrat, not to talk to us after the last board meeting (Radtke was kidding, we think).
A quick look at Waxman’s public positions on military recruitment may provide some insight. He spoke in favor of trusting principals to set reasonable limits on visits, rather than setting new limits through policy (a faith in authority typical of Democrats), but voted in favor of the policy restricting access anyway (waffling on key military issues, another Dem hallmark).
Of course, other Greens on the board are former Democrats, so who knows what the future holds? College can do strange things to one’s world view.
December 5, 2005
Austin’s Boot & Buckle facing the boot
Austin’s Boot & Buckle Saloon may be one of the first businesses to feel the sting of the City Council’s new crackdown on neighborhood bars.
The country music drinkin’-and-dancin’ establishment opened on Warren Avenue last February – apparently to the surprise of neighbors across the street. Since then, according to new Mayor Jim Cohen, there’ve been several disturbances of the peace – hootin’, hollerin’, fightin’, carryin’ on… that sort of thing. No one’s fired a pistol into the air, but one brawl spilled across the street and into one of the neighbor’s homes, Cohen said.
A recent meeting between the neighbors and the bar’s owners and staff was constructive, said Cohen, and Austin’s has agreed to take steps to prevent future problems. Nevertheless, the mayor said he was bringing the bar’s liquor and entertainment license renewals before the council to give the neighbors (or anyone else) a chance to further discuss any issues involving the saloon.
Asked if he felt the bar should lose its liquor license, Cohen said he did not, but qualified that by adding “based on what I know now.”
Austin’s hosts a country line dancing night, country karaoke, DJs and occasional live bands. There’s an enormous American flag in the dancing room; a pool table, leather couches and a cactus in the barroom; and dozens of bras hanging from a pole above the bar.
Austin’s is owned by Deb DiLuiso, former proprietor of The Underground (a pioneering gay dance club in Portland), and two partners. DiLuiso did not return a call seeking comment.
The council will consider the bar’s license renewals at its Dec. 19 meeting.
Wind Up Workin’ in a Gas Station
School Committee member Jason Toothaker may be a card-carrying member of the Green Independent Party, but that hasn’t stopped him from scoring a full-time job at the Exxon station near the old Exit 8.
Toothaker, a student at the University of Southern Maine, says the job was attractive because it gives him time to do school work (both his own and his work on behalf of your kids) while also doing his part to poison the planet and enrich our multinational masters (OK, we made that last part up).
If Toothaker can work with the Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Democrats on the school board should be a breeze.
December 1, 2005
Front Room with a view
The newest eatery on Munjoy Hill, called The Front Room Restaurant and Bar, is scheduled to open on Dec. 8 at 73 Congress St., a new space across from the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center. Owner/chef Harding Lee Smith said his establishment will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and offer beer, wine and liquor in a comfortable atmosphere with a killer view of the Eastern Promenade and Casco Bay.
A native Mainer and Deering High grad, Smith left the area after high school and studied cooking on the West Coast. Upon his return in 2003, he became the executive chef at Mims Brasserie on Commercial Street when it opened that year. Last winter, he worked as a chef at the Back Bay Grill in Bayside.
Smith said the Front Room will serve “New American Comfort Food” (meatloaf, mac-and-cheese, food with “simple, bold flavors”) using local, natural ingredients whenever possible. Sundays will feature a “traditional New England-style Sunday dinner” – featuring dishes like prime rib, Yorkshire pudding and traditional boiled dinner – beginning at the traditional New England time of 4 p.m.
Zoning in the neighborhood dictates that the restaurant and bar must close by 11 p.m.
November 28, 2005
Woe to the drunks and druggies of Upper Darby
Former Portland Police Chief Mike Chitwood’s possible consideration of a gubernatorial run here in Maine is apparently not news to any reporters in or around Upper Darby, Pa., the township outside Philadelphia where Chitwood now serves as Police Superintendent. A search of area papers turned up nothing on his comments to a Maine reporter, news of which first rippled through the media here Nov. 7, the same day his favored successor, Tim Burton, faced and won the City Council’s approval.
Our search did, however, turn up one article: a Nov. 22 news brief in theDelaware County Times (www.delcotimes.com) that’s worth noting here.
“Upper Darby checkpoint nets 32 DUI, drug arrests,” reads the headline byTimes correspondent Linda Reilly, who leads by noting that the new Chief Super just conducted the first DUI roadblock (“checkpoint”) in the area in over a decade. He also taught the cops down there how to do one, and vowed more will take place in the future.
Over 1,000 vehicles were stopped during the four-hour, late-Friday night operation, Reilly reports. In addition to 21 DUI arrests, six kids were cuffed for drinking in the first place, and four people got popped for possessing illegal drugs. Over 968 people were found innocent and allowed to continue driving.
“The drill at the intersection was an officer with a flashlight would approach the driver and announce ‘This is a sobriety checkpoint,'” Chitwood is quoted as explaining. Basically, if the driver’s car smelled suspicious or if their flashlight-illumined eyes looked funny, they were directed into a nearby parking lot and given breath tests. Those who “blew high” (Chitwood’s term) were then sent to the local hospital, where blood was taken and tested.
Chitwood added that his team – which included two dozen cops from local departments, various firemen, highway workers, county officials and Keystone State “constables” – had arranged beforehand to have a hospital room available for the blood work.
“People that are drunk driving and on drugs is [sic] a big problem,” Chief Super Chitwood told the Times. “This is a perfect example.”
November 21, 2005
[Corrected Nov. 26: The Tree would be in City Councilor Will Gorham’s district, not Councilor Karen Geraghty’s.]
“He say kill it before it grows…”
The space on Danforth Street most recently occupied by the lesbian bar Sisters has been bought by a couple, Jill and Joe Cooper, who plan to reopen it as The Tree.
Old-school Portland scenesters may recall that the same ramshackle building was a nightclub and music venue also called The Tree. Before it closed in 1990, The Tree hosted shows by now-venerable alt-rock bands like Camper Van Beethoven, Peru Ubu, The Pixies, the Circle Jerks and Soundgarden, as well as a slew of name reggae acts, like Toots and the Maytalls, who were practically regulars, according to a short history written in 2003 by former Portland Phoenix music writer Josh Rogers.
Jill Cooper said the couple wants the new Tree to be a music venue and a rental space for private parties or corporate functions. Though there’ll be liquor, they do not want it to be bar, she said.
The Coopers’ liquor license applicationwas scheduled to be voted on by the city council this Nov. 21. However, Jill Cooper said the new venue may not open until next spring or next summer or next whenever. “I’m not sure when it’s going to be open,” a dejected-sounding Cooper said by phone last week, noting that the building has some previously unforeseen structural problems. Engineers are on the case, she said.
She may also need a lawyer.
At the Nov. 21 council meeting, a woman whose house neighbors the bar raised strong objections to what she predicted would be noise and parking problems associated with the venue. Several councilors — particularly Karen Geraghty and Will Gorham , whose district the new Tree would be in — said this type of business is incompatible with the neighborhood, which they say has changed since the location last served alcohol or hosted live music. Geraghty went so far as to say city planning staff should examine zoning codes throughout Portland and reassess what residential areas bars are permitted to operate in.
Even after Mayor Jill Duson subsequently read a letter from the Coopers stating that they were withdrawing their license application pending further work on the building, councilors denounced the idea of a new Tree at the base of the West End.
City Manager Joe Gray said city staff will discuss potential problems with the Coopers and research how they may have gotten building permits to begin work on the space. It’s clear that even if the couple can get issues with the building resolved, that’s just the start of a long, nasty battle before note one is played.
November 20, 2005
2023… (A Graduate I Should Turn to Be)
Within days of Susan Hopkins’ election to the Portland School Committee — a victory that puts a fourth Green Independent Party member on the nonpartisan, nine-member board – word came via e-mail of “Green School Committee Initiative #1.” The message, sent to the media by Green board member Stephen Spring, gave no details, but promised the initiative would be unveiled by the four Greens at the school board’s Dec. 7 meeting. A second Green School Committee Initiative will be revealed in February, the message said.
Cynical minds (like mine) began spinning. What could a Green School Initiative be? A granola bar in every lunch box? A thousand points of psychedelic light?
Though the initiative’s details are supposed to be kept under wraps, Spring spilled some beans during a TV interview about Hopkins’ win and what that means for the board. The initiative, Spring said, is aimed at ensuring that every Portland public school student can attend college.
Hopkins, in a subsequent interview with The Bollard, provided a few more details after hearing that Spring had leaked some already. She declined to spell out the full plan, but did tell us this….
Called the Class of 2023 Initiative, the plan is to convene a task force made up of citizens, educators, business leaders, local government officials, philanthropists and others with a stake in the city’s future (who doesn’t this include?). This task force will be charged with finding a way to give every Portland public high school graduate the means to attend and graduate from college with at least a four-year undergraduate degree.
The year 2023 refers to the plan’s timetable. The initiative calls for every child entering kindergarten in 2006 to have the opportunity to be a college grad by 2023. (That’s 12 years of elementary and secondary school, ending in June of 2019, followed by four years of college, ending, thanks to global warming, in the balmy spring of 2023.)
“The key to social justice in Portland is for every child to attend and complete a college course,” Hopkins said. That could be at a technical school or similar job-training program, she said. And if a high school grad decided it’s wise to, say, bum around Europe for a few years or pursue a rock ‘n’ roll career before enrolling in post-secondary education, that’s fine too — provided, Hopkins said, they have the opportunity to enter college after graduation if they wish.
The initiative’s success or failure will largely depend on the availability to raise enough scholarship money to cover all the local students who otherwise lack the cash to pay for college. This could be a very large sum, Hopkins acknowledged, especially since the plan would not require that students attend a relatively inexpensive public university, like a University of Maine school. “It would be very counter-Green to dictate that,” Hopkins said.
Jeff Peterson, theater critic?
The Portland franchise edition of the Boston Phoenix has a new managing editor: former Portland Phoenix theater critic Jeff Inglis. According to his online resume (at http://www.jeffinglis.com), Inglis was most recently employed as editor of The Current, a community newsweekly that covers Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland. He also spent two months in 2000 as editor of The Antarctic Sun, a government-sponsored weekly that covers the South Pole.
Inglis formally begins his new job early next month. Asked if he will continue departing managing editor Sam Pfeifle’s practice of publishing articles he writes himself under a phony byline, Inglis said he was not prepared to comment onPhoenix editorial policies at this time, and suggested we check back with him in a few weeks once he’s begun work in earnest.
If he does follow Pfeifle’s lead, what name will Inglis come up with to mask his authorship and save freelance dollars?
We think the Phoenix should ask readers to send in suggestions. Make it a contest. Give away some Red Bull and a snowboard or something.
Here’s mine: Jeff Peterson. Sure, one of the local TV anchors has that name, too, but how do we know Jeff Peterson is really his real name? He could be a Geoff in disguise (these TV people are hooked on phonetics). No wonder no one trusts the media these days.
November 7, 2005
I’m against discrimination, but…
At the Nov. 2 meeting of the Portland School Committee, a vote was taken to show support of a resolution urging a “No” vote on Question 1, the referendum asking voters to overturn civil rights protections for gays and lesbians. The vote was 7-1-1, with board member James DiMillo voting against the resolution, and Teri McRae abstaining.
DiMillo, the District 5 representative, said his vote was a matter of procedure, not an indication of his opinion on the matter. “It’s not up to us to deal with those things,” he said in an interview after the vote. “We have things that are pertinent to the schools we should be dealing with, rather than political and social issues.” DiMillo is not seeking re-election this year.
McRae, however, is seeking a second three-year term on the board this fall. “I don’t support discrimination,” she said after her abstention. “I just don’t think [the resolution] is what the School Committee should spend its time on.”
Among the protections gays and lesbians will have if the repeal effort fails is legal recourse should they be denied education based on their sexuality.
Call in Patrick Fitzgerald!
City Council candidate Al Schulman called The Bollard fairly late one recent evening with what he considered major campaign news, big stuff, very big stuff.
What could it be to get Schulman so riled up after 9 p.m., we wondered. Had his opponent, incumbent District 5 Councilor Jim Cohen, revealed that contrary to widely held belief, he was not a mild-mannered attorney or even a human being at all, but rather a slug-like space alien from Saturn sent to rule first Portland, then the planet? Had Schulman been endorsed by President Bush in his race against the Democrat Cohen? Was the sky really falling, and was Cohen to blame for the atmospheric catastrophe?
It turns out Schulman had discovered that some candidates – including, allegedly, Cohen – did not have stickers on their wooden campaign signs disclosing that their message (“Vote for Cohen, then flee in terror”) was paid for by the candidate’s campaigns, as is required by law. Further deepening the scandal, at least in Schulman’s mind, was City Clerk Linda Cohen’s (no earthly relation) allegedly less-than-enthusiastic reaction to this charge of signage corruption.
The Bollard considered launching a full-scale investigation of this charge, but scrapped that after hearing from another candidate, who explained that recent heavy rains had washed her stickers off. We figured this might also explain Cohen’s underhanded refusal (again, alleged refusal) to disclose what funding source put up the ten bucks for wood scraps and paint to get his message across.
Which is not to say Cohen didn’t cause the heavy rains in the first place. How else will the space slugs stay moist enough to do all that conquering?
Not liked and not black
If, as many observers anticipate, the Portland City Council approves City Manager Joe Gray’s recommendation that acting Police Chief Tim Burton get the top-cop job permanently, Burton seems likely to face not only angst and ill-will within his own department (see below), but the same from members of the city’s minority communities, a largely mutually exclusive group.
Word leaked out last Wednesday that Mayor Jill Duson is opposed to Gray’s nominee because she feels Gray subverted the selection process and chose Burton over a black police captain from Clearwater, Florida, Anthony Holloway, who got higher marks from the panels convened to evaluate candidates for the job. The comments by Duson, who is black, sparked the local chapter of the NAACP to weigh in with concerns about the process, as well.
Those concerns are expected to be heard when the council meets to vote on Gray’s choice this evening, Nov. 7. But other than Duson, no councilors have yet said they plan to join her in opposing the recommendation. Some point to the last step in Gray’s process, during which he and Dr. Robert McAfee, chair of the Police Citizen Review Subcommittee, held additional interviews with the two finalists.
Furthermore, rank-and-file members of the force who prefer Holloway have not made a compelling case to councilors as to why they should bring new blood in to lead the department. Apparently “Burton’s as bad as Chitwood” isn’t good enough.
October 31, 2005
Holloway by a landslide
Earlier this month, members of the Portland Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the union representing rank-and-file officers like beat cops and detectives, held a vote to decide which of the two finalists for the chief of police job the union should support: Anthony Holloway, a police captain in Clearwater, Florida; or Tim Burton, a veteran Portland cop currently serving as the interim chief.
Of the 113 union members – over half of the 162-member uniformed force – five were not available to vote and 15 abstained or had no preference. Of those that did have a preference, 85 supported Holloway and eight supported Burton, their current boss.
Union leaders brought these results to City Manager Joe Gray before he made his decision, but Holloway’s overwhelming support among the cops on the street was not enough to earn him Gray’s nod. The city manager is recommending Burton for the job, and the city council is expected to vote on that recommendation at its Nov. 7 meeting.
Local media meltdown
October has been a cruel month for local print media companies. A couple (Metroand It magazines) have ceased publication, one (the Portland Phoenix) is losing its managing editor (Sam Pfeifle) and has lost its graphic designer (Sean Wilkinson), and another (the Portland Press Herald) is shedding jobs and catching hell for its plans to require regular readers of its online edition to register before gaining access to the site.
First, the obits.
Metro magazine was a free arts, culture and local fashion (?) publication started last year by Josh Shea, formerly the “news designer” at the Community Leader, a weekly owned by the publishers of the Press Herald. Metro appeared twice monthly.
Content-wise, Metro made the Sunday Parade insert look like The New Yorker, filled as it was with thinly disguised “advertorial,” awkward and amateurish feature writing, and pictures of well-groomed local models devoid of any actual sex appeal. A low point was surely reached a few months ago, when Shea tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to sell space on Metro‘s cover via eBay, the Internet auction site.
Metro ceased publication last month, and Shea said he’s shopped it around to two local newspaper companies, but has yet to find a buyer. (Shea did not name the companies he offered to sell the mag to, but one was the Phoenix Media and Communications Group, the Boston-based company that publishes the Phoenixand Face magazine). In one case, Shea said his offer was rejected; in the other, he rejected the offer made to him because it was too low, though that deal “could be revisited,” he said.
It Magazine was also started last year and died this fall. It was published by Mad Dog Media in Kennebunk, and helmed by rock guitarist Chuck Yoho, formerly of David’s Playground and now with a band called Cohesive. It was neither the cream nor the Creem of Maine music mags, but with the hilarious exception of local beer rep Greg Martens’ column, it wasn’t terrible, either. The Bollardwishes Chuck good luck.
No such wishes go out to the petty Portland Phoenix, which is losing managing editor Sam Pfeifle. Pfeifle, who’s held that position for the past four years after a couple as the altweekly’s listings editor, is leaving to become editor of Security Systems News, a monthly industry newspaper published in Yarmouth by United Publications. SSN covers news of the home security and business security systems industries (yawn), leading us to speculate that it wasn’t the prospect of writing and editing compelling journalism that lured Pfeifle from the Phoenix fold.
Pfeifle confirmed that he’s taken the position when The Bollard called for comment, but said he was in a “corporate” meeting, and would call back with more details. He did not do so before this item was posted several days later.
Pfeifle’s departure most likely means the Phoenix and Face (the monthly music mag bought by the Phoenix Media and Communications Group last year) will also be without the services of writer and photographer Simon Peterson, who is actually Pfeifle himself. Pfeifle has written and published photos using that fake byline for the past couple of years.
The Portland Phoenix is also now without the services of Sean Wilkinson, a graphic designer and columnist who quit the Phoenix earlier this month to pursue a freelance career, including work as one of The Bollard‘s two art directors. The Phoenix told Wilkinson that while he was free to pursue freelance work outside his work for the Phoenix, that work could not be for The Bollard — a selective prohibition that extends to at least one other Phoenix freelance contributor of note.
Over at the daily paper, publisher Chuck Cochrane has announced a hiring freeze, fired 15 workers, and is leaving six vacant positions unfilled throughout the operation. The cuts, reported in a brief buried on page seven of the Press Herald‘s Oct. 18 business section, “are needed to maintain the financial health of the company,” according to the story. Contributing factors cited in the brief include “flat ad revenue, falling circulation and increased costs.”
Cochrane said more jobs may be added to MaineToday.com, the Web site run by Blethen Maine Newspapers (part of the Seattle Times Company), which publishes the Herald and several other papers in Maine. But at the same time Cochrane is counting on increased Web readership, his company is angering its regular readers by requiring them to register personal information (including age, address and income) before they can access the stories, blogs and other features online.
MaineToday editor Scott Hersey is bearing the brunt of reader angst on his Editor’s Blog, where people are threatening to stop visiting the site or to provide false information to skew the data the company intends to use in its effort to attract more advertisers.
Seeing the opportunity to put the Press Herald out of its misery sooner rather than sometime next decade, The Bollard has announced that it is now updating its site daily, with no registration required. News and listings will be kept as current as possible, but each of this site’s seven sections will be updated with new content every day of the week. See this week’s editorial for more details, dirt and mud-slinging.
Local political gossip
If you think Portland’s print media market is a cesspool of old grudges and petty vindictiveness, you should spend some time chatting with the politicians and political operatives involved in this fall’s City Council and School Committee races.
For example, tongues are wagging (at least in the opposing camps) over at-large council candidate Ed Suslovic’s decision to take a leave of absence from Shalom House, where he’s worked as the non-profit’s housing director, to campaign. Suslovic said he’s put his day job on hold to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest stemming from simultaneous efforts to raise money for Shalom House and his council bid.
More cynical observers, like the publisher of this site, note that Suslovic clearly has a passion for public service, and after losing his seat in the state Legislature last year, a City Council loss would be particularly disheartening. After all, there’s a place where political careers go after they’ve been flushed down the toilet: the Portland Water District.
One of Suslovic’s opponents in this race, Carol Schiller, apparently had quite an interview with Forecaster reporter Kate Bucklin. It seems Schiller took offense when Bucklin asked her age (50) and again when she inquired about her marital status (widowed), questioning why that information is relevant to the race at hand. (Actually, that’s not a bad question, just a bad response.) The interview continued after things cooled down.
Tongues are also wagging (again, mostly in opposing camps) over the fact school board candidate Lori Gramlich took her daughter out of Portland’s public school system and enrolled her in a private school rather than send her to Lincoln Middle. Gramlich said her daughter’s teachers at Longfellow Elementary School “suggested” that her daughter “might do better in an environment where she’ll get more attention” – in this case, Waynflete, a private school in the West End.
Gramlich likened criticism of her decision to criticism of someone who shuns medical treatment for their child because the pediatrician has no children of their own. Gramlich continues to be active in a parents group called Friends of Lincoln Middle School that is dedicated to improving the school’s learning environment, and said her daughter may attend public high school.
Finally, several attendees at a recent candidates-night event hosted by a local school’s PTA remarked on at-large school board candidate Susan Hopkins’ alleged refusal to reveal her political affiliation. Hopkins is facing a Democrat (former board member Frances Frost) and Jaimey Caron (a former member and chair of the Portland Planning Board), who is not enrolled in a party.
To Hopkins’ credit, the school board race, like the council race, is officially non-partisan, and the growing partisanship of these campaigns has been a source of criticism among candidates and the public alike. But as anyone can readily find out by searching the Portland City Clerk’s public database of registered voters (or by reading The Bollard), Hopkins is a member of the Green Independent Party.
October 16, 2005
Portland beat cops want Florida chief
Members of the Portland Police Benevolent Association, the union representing the rank-and-file officers who comprise the bulk of the force, are lobbying for Capt. Anthony Holloway to be their next boss, according to a cop who attended the union’s most recent meeting. Holloway, a police captain and patrol division commander in Clearwater, Florida, is one of two finalists under consideration to be Portland’s next police chief. The other is Tim Burton, a deputy chief under departed Portland Chief Mike Chitwood, who has been serving as the department’s acting chief since late August.
Relations between Chitwood’s police administration and the rank-and-file officers deteriorated considerably in recent years. The low point was the lawsuit the beat-cop union filed to get access to a report in which its members blasted Chitwood and another deputy chief, Bill Ridge. Burton was not singled out in what became known as the McLaran Report (it was compiled by former Portland Chief Bill McLaran, and finally made public last December), but as one of Chitwood’s top administrators, he was implicated in their remarks criticizing the top brass in general. Burton has been overseeing the department’s patrol division since 2002.
City Manager Joe Gray is expected to present his choice for chief to the city council in November. The council can either approve or reject Gray’s selection.
Several observers inside and outside the local law enforcement community have said they think the entire selection process is a sham meant to give the impression of competition before Burton is handed the post. Forty-six people applied for the job before that pool was narrowed to five applicants who got interviews.
Slainte to Meritage
Meritage Wine Bar on Preble Street now has both a new owner, Adam Dougherty, and a new name: Slainte Wine Bar. “Slainte” means “Cheers” in Irish Gaelic. No, we don’t know how to pronounce the new name, either. A slurred “slainte” to that.
Free Street Taverna now known as its address
The former Free Street Taverna has now reopened. New owner Ted Arcand, who also owns the Dogfish Cafe on Congress Street, has apparently renamed the establishment 128 Free Street, its street address. It seems the Free Fish Taverna would have given people the mistaken impression that the bar and restaurant offers a great seafood special. A Free Dog Taverna would have similar problems, not the least of which from PETA.
128 Free Street has better, more expensive food; a noticeably more subdued atmosphere than its predecessor; and the back deck is closed for an undetermined amount of time. But most of the dollar bills are still stapled to the rafters, and Arcand said he will continue offering beer specials to members of the Mug Club set up by the previous owners. Slainte, dude.
October 9, 2005
Headliners on the line
Headliners, the bar and dance club on Wharf Street, may lose its liquor license if city officials get their way. The City Council voted to yank the bar’s booze permit earlier this year, citing fights and other issues, but the club’s owners have appealed the decision to state liquor authorities, who held a hearing on the matter at City Hall on Oct. 6. The Bollard intended to attend that hearing, but mercifully a scheduling conflict intervened, saving us from what turned out to be a six-and-a-half-hour affair, according to city attorney Gary Wood. A decision is expected later this month.
If Headliners loses its license, applicant Douglas Cole said they will try to reopen at another location. Wood said he wasn’t sure what the legalities of that would be, but suspects the applicants would have to wait one year before reapplying for a license. Meanwhile, DJs Seanne London and Baby Jay are still tearin’ up the joint (that’s hip hop language for playing really good music, officer) on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively.
Piombino protecting the homeland?
Word is that former Cumberland County Register of Probate Alfred E. Piombino, a.k.a. The Honorable Alfred E. Piombino, a.k.a. Captain Alfred E. Piombino, a.k.a. The Honorable Captain — oh, forget it! — has scored a new job as a high-level official in charge of organizing disaster response operations in the Atlantic City area of New Jersey. Piombino, a contentious figure in county government, lost his reelection bid to Republican challenger Teri McRae last fall.
Let’s hope we never hear the words, “You’re doing a great job, Alfie,” come out of the president’s mouth.
Somewhere Else is owned by some other guy
Somewhere Else — formerly Somewhere, a gay bar on Spring Street – is being taken over and remodeled by Normand “Norm” Paquin, the same guy who took over and remodeled the gay-friendly dance club The Underground (now Styxx) last year.
Paquin, who also owns Main Street, a gay-friendly bar and dance club on Main Street in Ogunquit, plans to rename his newest establishment Spring Street. He goes before the Portland City Council on Oct. 5 seeking a liquor license for Spring Street and an entertainment license (with no dancing) for the bar, which he said he hopes to open later this month.
Paquin said he plans to keep the popular karaoke nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but will “class-up” the establishment by building a new bar and adding a TV and sports-related stuff.
Paquin hopes Spring Street will become a destination for people who want to enjoy a classy, cocktail lounge atmosphere before going out dancing at his other club a few blocks down the street. As it is now, that clientele is patronizing Una, a cocktail lounge in the Old Port, and Norm’s Downtown Lounge on Congress Street, Paquin said.
Spring Street will be “a good, old, comfortable, neighborhood bar,” he said, “where it’s safe and there’s not all that crap going on.” He didn’t elaborate.
The Free Fish Taverna?
Ted Arcand, the new owner of Free Street Taverna, got a liquor license and a license to provide entertainment (provided no one dances to said entertainment) from the Portland City Council at its Sept. 19 meeting. The Bollard, which has previously expressed fear and not a little loathing over the idea of a cleaned-up, upscale Taverna, was assured by Arcand a few days later that the stalwart bar and music venue would change very little under his proprietorship – at least for the next six-to-eight months.
Arcand, who also owns the considerably classier Dogfish Café on Congress Street, was at the old bar with previous owner Steve Kesler when we dropped by. Arcand said at the time that he hoped to reopen the establishment by the end of September, but the latest buzz is the bar will open its doors by the end of the first week in October.
True, Arcand plans to improve the menu. True, the entertainment will be of a milder variety than in years past (don’t expect weekly hip hop open mics to continue). But Arcand assured us this second edition of The Dogfish Café will be a place where locals can still hang out, drink and socialize without feeling pressured to either eat dinner or leave. “This will still be a bar,” he said of the first floor. The second floor will be a dining area again (it was used infrequently for that purpose during the past few years), and even when Arcand makes some major renovations – perhaps as soon as next spring – he said the bar will still be a bar with music seven nights a week.
As for the dollars stapled to the rafters, Arcand said they’ll also stay for the time being. Looks like Kesler will, too. We’ll give it a try.
Will Meritage honor its heritage?
Adam Dougherty, the new owner of Meritage, also got liquor and entertainment licenses from the City Council last month, and the wine bar is now open again, with a larger menu and more seating. Last week, a Bollard reader suggested another change: pronouncing the damn name right!
Former owner Tom Hansen, who also writes a column on wine for the Portland Press Herald, pronounced the third and last syllable in the name like “Taj,” as in Taj Mahal, and so did pretty much everyone else who worked at the bar or frequented the place. But according to The Meritage Association, the group of American winemakers who formed and coined the word in 1988, meritage is a combination of the words merit and heritage, and should be pronounced accordingly (see www.meritagewine.org).
Dougherty said recently that he’s aware of the association’s preferred pronunciation, but he prefers the French-sounding version. So far, the world is still turning.
White Heart, cold winter
Speaking of Meritage, former Meritage wine barkeep Aly Hodge’s new nightclub, The White Heart (see “White Heart, White Heat,” below), will open a little later than expected, due to a construction delay. Rather than November, the new venue on the corner of Congress and Oak streets is now slated for a mid-December debut.
White Heart, White Heat
The downtown blocks of Congress Street are poised to experience a resurgence of nightlife this fall. In addition to Geno’s recent relocation to the area, and the much anticipated reopening of The Skinny in the former Whit’s End building, November is the scheduled opening month for The White Heart. The bar and cocktail lounge, to be located at 551 Congress Street, promises to be “a unique dining and entertainment setting” that will offer “live music, dancing, and unparalleled service that will cater to Champagne drinkers and PBR drinkers alike,” according to its Web site, www.thewhiteheart.com.
Aly Hodge, most recently a bartender at Meritage Wine Bar on Preble Street, is the owner of The White Heart. Her husband, John Althoff, a guitarist in the experimental metal band Conifer, is working on the project, as well.