Fingers point after Pavilion closes
Former co-owner/manager working at Cake
By Chris Busby
The popular Old Port nightclub and banquet facility The Pavilion has closed, leaving groups and individuals who booked events there scrambling to find new venues and recoup their deposits as the club’s owners blame each other for the business’ demise.
As The Bollard reported late last year, The Pavilion was put up for sale several months ago* [see editor’s note at the end of this article]. In January, we reported that the owner of the building the business occupies, Portland-based real estate firm Commercial Properties Inc., is trying to sell the two-floor space The Pavilion has been leasing at 188 Middle Street.
Despite the fact the business and its space were on the market, sources say co-owner Lisa Oldakowski continued to book events there – in some cases, having customers write deposit checks to her, rather than the business itself.
Margie MacDonald, coordinator of the Portland School Department’s Multilingual Program, had arranged to hold the program’s “Rock Around-the-World” fundraising event at The Pavilion on March 9. In the weeks leading up to the event, MacDonald said Oldakowski had assured her the venue would be available. But more recently, MacDonald said Oldakowski stopped returning her calls, and it soon became clear The Pavilion was no longer an option.
MacDonald has since been able to secure an alternative space, the Mariner’s Church Banquet Center, on Fore Street, and the fundraiser will take place there this Friday. But the program lost its $500 deposit for The Pavilion, and MacDonald said a lawyer for the program is trying to get the money back. The $500 loss would mean “a couple kids won’t be getting summer school scholarships” this year, she said.
As TV station WGME reported March 2, several area high schools that booked proms at The Pavilion are also in the lurch, as are brides who booked wedding receptions there and at least one family who planned a bar mitzvah at the facility earlier this month.
Oldakowski, formerly the club’s banquet manager, took over as co-owner and manager of The Pavilion last summer. Under its previous owner, Jim Albert, The Pavilion – which Albert had renamed 188 Bourbon Street – drew scrutiny from Portland police due to the high number of fights and other disturbances there.
Police asked the City Council not to renew Albert’s liquor and entertainment licenses for the club – an action that would have effectively closed it – but councilors did so anyway. Instead, they placed limits on the days and times The Pavilion could have DJs and other musical entertainment.
In early June of last year, Albert sold his 50-percent interest in First Class Enterprises LLC – the limited liability company that owned the business – to Oldakowski for $1. The other half of the business is controlled by MWG Trust, an entity represented by Paul Golzbein, who owns The Pier entertainment complex in Old Orchard Beach. Albert and Golzbein are partners in the operation of The Pier.
Golzbein did not return a call seeking comment. Peter Edmands, the registered agent and attorney for First Class Enterprises, did not return a call seeking comment, either.
Albert said Golzbein’s role in The Pavilion was strictly financial, and that as the personal guarantor of the lease, Golzbein has upheld his part of the arrangement by making lease payments for the space. Oldakowski was responsible for the club’s operations, Albert said, and is now “trying to put a spin on [the situation] and shirk her responsibility” for The Pavilion’s closure.
Though Albert sold his share of the business to Oldakowski and said he effectively ended his involvement with The Pavilion thereafter, he led the effort to find a new owner for the club earlier this year as a favor to her, he said.
Reached for comment today, Albert said Oldakowski “misrepresented” her financial ability to take over his half of the business last summer. “I stepped foot in that building maybe twice since I sold it to her,” said Albert. “What I saw in there was pretty bad.”
Oldakowski’s business practices were “unorganized and unethical,” said Albert, who alleges that under her management, The Pavilion made fraudulent credit card transactions, booked events past its lease expiration date this summer, and left “a string of bounced checks” to vendors all over town.
Oldakowski declined to comment on Albert’s allegations. “I’m not going to get into a word war with him,” she said.
Oldakowski claims she does not know why The Pavilion has closed. Citing “the legalities involved,” she declined further comment, but suggested the answers lie with Golzbein.
The Pavilion’s closure “came as a surprise” to Oldakowski, according to her attorney, John Turcotte. Turcotte said Golzbein and Albert “actually ran The Pavilion…. It appears Mr. Albert stayed active” in the business, he said.
“My understanding is [Golzbein] pretty much ran the business,” Turcotte continued. “Lisa didn’t handle any of the company’s finances.”
Asked who will be responsible for reimbursing those burned by the club’s closure, Turcotte said, “the company’s attorney [Edmands] will have to hash that out.”
Oldakowski has since found a new job booking events at Cake, the new Old Port restaurant and nightclub on Wharf Street opened earlier this year by Tom Manning [see “Cake walk,” Dec. 19, 2006]. Given the scandal over The Pavilion’s demise, she said her new position with Cake is now “up in the air.”
In an oddly circular twist, Manning, who owns several other Old Port nightclubs, bought The Pavilion in 1998 from Steve Baumann, and sold it to Albert two years ago. Baumann and his father, Ed, have since acquired a number of Old Port properties, including those occupied by Manning’s bars and the restaurant/nightclub Cake.
Steve Baumann is now a real estate broker with CB Richard Ellis/The Boulos Company, and one of the properties he’s handling is The Pavilion, which Commercial Properties is trying to lease through CBRE/Boulos.
The asking price to lease the historic property – built in the 1860s for Canal National Bank – is $208,392 per year (a rate of $14.25 for each of the property’s 14,624 square feet of available space).
The property is being marketed for retail or restaurant use. Baumann said his old nightclub could also be converted into a “high-end athletic club” or some other type of business.
Asked if The Pavilion might become a nightclub and banquet facility again, Baumann replied, “You never know.”
Editor’s note: Shortly after this article was posted,Oldakowski contacted The Bollard via e-mail to challenge the statement, published in the original version of this article, that “she tried to sell [The Pavilion] several months ago.” “I did not and never did try to sell The Pavilion at any time,” she wrote. “I did not put the ad in the paper” – a reference to the ad seeking buyers for The Pavilion placed in the Portland Phoenix last December. As Oldakowski notes, the contact number in the ad is Jim Albert’s phone number, not hers. The second paragraph of this article was changed to reflect that. – C.B.