Gossip

Gossip from March and April, 2007 

By Chris Busby

 

April 27, 2007

A brief break in the ice: Kevin Mahaney (left), head of The Olympia Companies, had a friendly chat with Ocean Properties founder and chairman Tom Walsh just prior to the start of a city meeting last Wednesday. (photo/Chris Busby)
A brief break in the ice: Kevin Mahaney (left), head of The Olympia Companies, had a friendly chat with Ocean Properties founder and chairman Tom Walsh just prior to the start of a city meeting last Wednesday. (photo/Chris Busby)

War of words between pier teams rages on

The competition between the two teams vying to redevelop the Maine State Pier keeps getting nastier.

The latest salvo was launched into cyberspace by Ocean Properties executive Bob Baldacci (brother of Gov. John Baldacci) and former Portland Mayor and City Councilor Peter O’Donnell, a consultant to the New Hampshire-based hotel and resort development company. 

In an e-mail sent April 23 to interested parties on the company’s update list, Baldacci and O’Donnell accuse The Olympia Companies of incorporating elements of Ocean Properties’ plan into its proposal. “They say imitation is the highest form of flattery,” the pair wrote. “If that’s true, it’s clear that Ocean Properties has the best proposal because the competing team has adopted many of the elements first proposed by Ocean Properties.”

The Olympia side scoffs at that idea, and has accused Ocean Properties of the same transgression. They claim the changes Ocean has made to its plan since the two proposals were formally submitted in February were made in response to elements of Olympia’s proposal. 

For example, since turning in their homework on Feb. 22, Ocean Properties has moved the parking garage initially situated just west of the hotel and restaurant they plan to build at the foot of the pier to the east of that hotel/restaurant complex. In doing so, the company has opened an area at the base of the pier – between its proposed hotel and pier-top office building – that resembles Casco Bay Park, the open space Olympia has touted as one of its plan’s strongest features.

Olympia was also the first to explicitly say it intends to use parts of the existing marine warehouse to build new structures on the pier, an approach deemed more environmentally friendly than using all new construction materials. Ocean has since said it also plans to recycle parts of the old warehouse into new buildings, and it’s beefed up its eco-credentials in other ways since the Feb. 22 deadline – most notably by bringing former Green Independent Party legislator John Eder on board. [See the March 22 Gossip item below.]

The claim that Olympia, which hasn’t significantly altered its site plan since February, has swiped elements of Ocean’s proposal is striking, in that it alludes to the fact Ocean has had a detailed plan for the pier for well over a year.

As The Bollard reported on May 1 of last year, O’Donnell and Baldacci had been holding private meetings with individual city councilors as early as the winter of 2005-2006. Councilors recalled seeing plans that included a hotel, retail space, parking infrastructure and a museum. A version of the plans shown to The Bollard by a third party last summer also depicted a facility for cruise ship passengers.

Because of the perception these meetings (and Baldacci’s and O’Donnell’s political connections) give Ocean Properties a special advantage, the Ocean team has generally downplayed the head start it’s had – when they acknowledge it at all. 

For example, in the April 23 e-mail, the pair wrote: “Since the RFP (Request For Proposals) process began, Ocean Properties has been working to design the very best project for Portland.” The veracity of that statement is a matter of semantics. The RFP process formally began last fall, and Ocean can accurately claim to have worked on its plan “since” then, but it’s also true that they had a plan worked out well over a year ago – a plan much like the one now under consideration.

“When we first began to explore the opportunity at the Maine State Pier, we developed a site plan that’s pretty much consistent with what we have today,” Baldacci said this week. “It showed an office building, a hotel, a cruise port. 

“I knew [Olympia president and CEO Kevin Mahaney] had a copy of that,” Baldacci claimed. “He pretty much adopted a lot of the same elements that we had.”

“That’s not true,” said Olympia spokesman Sasha Cook. “I don’t know how Baldacci can say we were copying them, because our proposal has remained as it was on February 22nd…. The idea of putting a hotel and office building down there is nothing unique to Ocean Properties.”

Olympia has made much of the fact that it assembled a group of over a dozen prominent citizens last winter to guide the design of its plan. The April 23 Ocean e-mail takes a shot at this, too, saying that “[b]y listening to and considering the points of view of hundreds of people – not just a handpicked group of 13 individuals – Ocean Properties has demonstrated its commitment to delivering the very best plan for Portland….”

Baldacci said this week that the reference to “hundreds of people” includes those who’ve attended presentations on the proposals held since the plans were submitted two months ago.

The rhetoric between the rival teams hasn’t publicly erupted into profanity again since last month [see the March 22 Gossip item, “Bailey to Mahaney: ‘Fuck you,'” below], but the tension and ill will hasn’t eased much, either. Personal insults are less common of late, but there’s been plenty of eye-rolling, audible exhalations of disapproval, and at least one instance – related to The Bollard on condition of anonimity – when a hand extended from one team member to a rival team member was pointedly not shaken. 

 

April 20, 2007

Hotel and condos on Jordan’s Meats site reborn?
In an April bulletin sent via e-mail, Mainebiz reported that plans to build a hotel and condominiums at the former Jordan’s Meats site are being reworked by Rhode Island-based development company the Procaccianti Group. The business publication said Procaccianti intends to submit revised plans to the city in coming weeks.

“We’re going to deliver the right product for that area,” Procaccianti spokesman Ralph Izzi told Mainebiz. “We haven’t arrived at it yet.”

Izzi did not return calls from The Bollard seeking comment. 

Procaccianti’s original project included a Westin hotel with over 200 rooms, 95 condo units, a restaurant, retail space and underground parking. The project stalled after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges in March of last year against local developer Michael Liberty, of The Liberty Group, which had partnered with Procaccianti to build it. It’s unclear if those charges were a factor in the project’s problems.

There’s also been wide speculation that the city’s willingness to allow hotel development on public land at the foot of the Maine State Pier negatively affected the viability of the hotel project Procaccianti envisioned a block up the street. Procaccianti had not asked for a tax break to build its $100 million-plus hotel/condo complex, but both teams bidding to build a hotel at the pier site are requesting financial assistance from the city, including property tax breaks. 

 

April 18, 2007

[Clarification: Since the item below was posted, the museum has opened for at least one day this week. Mokeme has yet to respond to requests for comment. – Ed.]

Museum of African Culture closed?
The Museum of African Culture has apparently closed after six years on Spring Street, in Portland’s West End. The building it occupies is for sale, and calls to museum director Oscar Mokeme placed during the museum’s stated hours of operation have not been answered or returned.

As we reported last month (see March 22 Gossip item below), Mokeme was arrested and charged with domestic violence assault on March 11 at the home of his estranged wife on Peaks Island. In October of 2003, he was arrested following a similar incident at the home. He pleaded innocent to that charge. 

The museum, formerly called the Museum of African Tribal Art, does not own the building it occupies. City records indicate the owner is Arthur Aleshire, of Scarborough. The property is listed by realtor John Hatcher for $450,000.

In a profile of Mokeme published earlier this year in the bimonthly documentary publication The Blue Room, the non-profit museum’s annual budget was said to be $75,000. The value of Mokeme’s African art collection was estimated between $15 million and $20 million. 

 

April 13, 2007

Shipyard to set sail?
Shipyard Brewing Company is making a renewed pitch for a property tax break, but as was the case a year ago, city officials are not enthusiastic about the idea.

As we reported last spring [see “Free beer and chicken?,” May 15, 2006, and “Beer makes strange bedfellows,” June 22, 2006; both in News Briefs], Shipyard owner Fred Forsley wants the city to extend the tax-increment financing (TIF) deal it gave Shipyard last decade when the brewery was established on Newbury Street, at the foot of Munjoy Hill. Without a new tax break for a planned expansion of that facility, Forsley said Shipyard may leave town.

The previous 10-year agreement returned 75 percent of Shipyard’s property taxes to the brewery for the first five years, and 50 percent of those taxes during the next five years. The tax break extension Forsley sought last year would grant Shipyard about $1.1 million in tax relief in exchange for the business doubling its brewing capacity and adding up to 18 new jobs. 

The Council technically kept the TIF arrangement alive by giving Shipyard 1 percent of its property taxes back this year, but that agreement will expire in the next couple months. City officials had expected Shipyard would come back with a more attractive offer – like a plan to create even more jobs, or a formal guarantee the expansion and job-creation would take place – but there’s no indication the deal has been sweetened by the brewer.

Forsley did not return a call seeking comment. 

City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, whose district includes the brewery, said Shipyard is seeking to get half of its property taxes back under an extended TIF arrangement. At this point, Donoghue said he does not support that idea. “I’m not voting for any tax breaks this year,” he said.

Councilor Jim Cohen, who chairs the city’s Finance Committee, said he’s seen nothing so far that changes his position on the TIF extension, which he opposed based on the terms presented last year. 

Shipyard recently sold a parcel of land next to its brewery to a development team that intends to build a 180-room, extended-stay Marriott hotel there. A storage building attached to the brewery would be demolished to make way for the hotel, and a five-story warehouse also used by the brewery was recently demolished to create more space for the Marriott. However, plans for the hotel do not envision Shipyard vacating its current site, which also includes a gift shop.

The hotel developers do plan to lease 140 spaces in the parking garage being built nearby as part of the Riverwalk mega-project on the eastern waterfront. Forsley is also a partner in the Riverwalk development, which has a separate, 12-year TIF agreement with the city worth $5 million for the garage’s construction.

Meanwhile, across town, another brewer is completing a big expansion project without a penny of city help. Allagash Brewing Company is finishing up a new facility on Industrial Way that’s 25 percent larger than its former brewery next door. Owner Rob Tod said the extra tanks will allow Allagash to increase its capacity by 30 percent in the short-term, with the potential to quadruple output in the future. He expects to add “a couple” jobs later this year.

Last year, another local brewer, David Geary, spoke against granting Shipyard a property tax break, given that the two breweries are competitors. Tod said he doesn’t know enough about Shipyard’s plans to comment, but is generally in favor of any effort to help brewers in Maine stay competitive with those in other states. 

“Brewers in other states are always talking about the great incentives they’re getting,” said Tod, who added that brewing is one of the few manufacturing sectors in Maine that’s growing these days. 

 

A sign on the clubhouse of Riverside Municipal Golf Course. (file photo/Chris Busby)
A sign on the clubhouse of Riverside Municipal Golf Course. (file photo/Chris Busby)

Cops bust city-owned bar
Bogey’s, a bar and restaurant on Riverside Street, is among 35 bars and stores recently nailed by Portland cops as part of the police department’s new initiative to crack down on alcohol sales to minors. But unlike the other 34 establishments, Bogey’s is not privately owned. Its landlord is none other than the city of Portland.

Bogey’s is part of the Riverside Municipal Golf Course. The city leases the place to private operators, but retains ownership of the building. 

As The Bollard reported last April, the former manager there is suing the city on grounds her agreement to operate the establishment, then called The Eagles Nest, was unfairly terminated. 

Former manager Kathleen Joyce also said the scene at the city-owned facility resembled Wharf Street during her time there, with drunk and demanding patrons raising hell and a cocaine trade happening right under the city’s nose.

Joyce’s lawyer at the time, former city attorney David Lourie, said Portland officials were applying a double standard: cracking down on privately owned bars while ignoring liquor violations at Riverside, like open containers on the course. Joyce’s dispute with the city has not yet been resolved. She is seeking about $45,000 in damages for lost earnings and legal fees.

The bar is now managed by Edward “Ted” Everest, whom the city chose to take over for Joyce last year. 

 

April 1, 2007

Portland pot-porn magazine to launch
A Portland woman is starting a new quarterly magazine featuring photos of naked women posing with marijuana. 

Marrijane will be available locally at select locations and distributed nationwide beginning April 20, at a newsstand cost of $4.20, said founder and publisher Ellen Anderson. The 68-page debut issue contains photos and text by national and local contributors, such as longtime Portland doorman and photographer Andrew Sherman, the magazine’s art director.

Anderson, 26, also does the graphic design work for Kapital Ink, a local rock zine published by music writer Joe S. Harrington. She believes Marrijane is the first magazine of its kind, though High Times has a “Ms. High Times” feature based on a similar premise, and the Web site 420girls.com is publishing a coffee table book this summer, Naked Girls Smoking Weed.

Unlike 420girls.com, which posts amateur photos submitted by readers on its site, Marrijane arranges “classy photo shoots,” said Anderson. The porn will be presented in “softcore” fashion for now, but things could get racier. “We’ll see what the audience allows us to do,” Anderson said. “We get requests for all sorts of things.”

Though the mag’s focus is naked women getting stoned, that could change someday, too. “You never know,” Anderson said. “There could be a Marrijohn in the future.”

Asked if the grass on display is real or what Cheech and Chong used to refer to as “stunt dope,” Anderson replied cagily, “I’m not exactly sure.”

A party celebrating Marrijane‘s release takes place April 20 at Geno’s, featuring local stoner-rock bands audioblacK, Eldemur Krimm and Pigboat, and comedian Seth Bond Perry. “All the girls from the first issue will be there,” Anderson promised. 

For more on Marrijane, see www.marrijane.com (Note: the site’s home page states that its content is “for mature audiences only;” viewers under 18 are directed to exit the site). 

 

March 29, 2007

The mechanical bull out to pasture at The Stadium last year. (photo/Chris Busby)
The mechanical bull out to pasture at The Stadium last year. (photo/Chris Busby)

Stadium to return, Hooters won’t
Four months after an orgy of vandalism closed The Stadium, the Free Street sports bar and restaurant will open its doors again this April, said owner Mike Harris. 

The reincarnated bar and restaurant will occupy the entire first floor of the former Keystone Theatre Café; the basement level, where the bulk of the damage occurred, will no longer be used by the public, said Harris. Pool tables and golf-simulator machines will occupy the part of the building fronting Congress Street, and the popular mechanical bull will be back.

Hooters, however, will not. 

Harris’ announcement last summer that he intended to open a Hooters franchise in part of The Stadium’s downtown space sparked an uproar that led the Portland City Council to place limits on chain and franchise restaurants. Though the limits have since been repealed, Harris isn’t itching to try again. He said he’s still working with the franchise to open a Hooters elsewhere in Maine.

Police are still investigating the incident that closed The Stadium just before New Year’s Eve. According to reports, vandals smashed TVs, overturned pool tables, stole cash and liquor, and flooded the establishment – Harris said water damage accounts for most of the renovation cost. 

The incident followed several others involving teens entering the business to steal alcohol, one of which resulted in the stabbing of a bar manager who gave chase. Limiting operations to one floor will make the establishment safer, Harris said.

 

March 22, 2007

From left: Former Green state Rep. John Eder, Bob Baldacci and Ocean Properties' billionaire founder Tom Walsh (seated). (photo/Chris Busby)
From left: Former Green state Rep. John Eder, Bob Baldacci and Ocean Properties' billionaire founder Tom Walsh (seated). (photo/Chris Busby)

Eder gone to the Dark Side?
Meet the newest member of the team behind a $90 million hotel-and-office complex on public waterfront property: John Eder.

Heads turned at the March 20 meeting of the City Council’s Community Development Committee when Eder arrived in the company of Ocean Properties billionaire developer Tom Walsh to help pitch OP’s plan for the Maine State Pier.

Eder, the first Green elected to the Maine House of Representatives, joins former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, Bob Baldacci (brother of Gov. John Baldacci), political power-player Dennis Bailey, and former Portland City Councilor and Mayor Peter O’Donnell on the Ocean Properties’ squad. His stated role is to help make the mega-project environmentally friendly, energy-neutral, “green.”

Since narrowly losing his House seat to West End Democrat Jon Hinck last fall, Eder’s been a self-described “shut-in,” taking a few odd jobs here and there. When Ocean Properties called a couple weeks ago, Eder said he carefully weighed the decision to take a job for a for-profit cause. 

“I thought I could either put my head in the sand and pass up the opportunity to make this a green design, or I could embrace it,” Eder said. “I can’t pass up a chance to have influence.”

Eder admits he’s “no expert” on green building technology, though he’s submitted bills aimed at promoting eco-friendly construction. To that end, he’s brought aboard friend David Kaufman, whose one-man consulting firm, Energy Solutions, specializes in residential and small commercial jobs (see www.energyforbuildings.com). 

The pair are talking with project engineers about using solar and wind power for the proposed complex, Eder said. Ocean Properties has publicly committed to making its project “carbon-neutral.” 

In addition to this work a few hours a week, Eder is organizing a pro-marijuana political campaign for Portland this year. The campaign is part of a national effort to get cities to declare pot offenses committed by adults the “lowest enforcement priority” for local cops.

So that’s what those “rooftop gardens” in Ocean Properties’ plans are for…

 

Now that's spin: Public relations superstar Dennis Bailey (left) and Olympia Companies president and CEO Kevin Mahaney in images from Tuesday night's meeting. (photos/Chris Busby)
Now that's spin: Public relations superstar Dennis Bailey (left) and Olympia Companies president and CEO Kevin Mahaney in images from Tuesday night's meeting. (photos/Chris Busby)

Bailey to Mahaney: “Fuck you”
In a related story, as Tuesday night’s Community Development Committee (CDC) meeting was breaking up, a remarkable exchange took place between state spin-king Dennis Bailey, of the Ocean Properties team, and Kevin Mahaney, head of The Olympia Companies, the rival bidder for rights to remake the pier. 

First, a little background. Last fall, Mahaney’s team had urged the CDC to allow developers more time – six months or more – to put together proposals for the property. Ron Ward, an attorney representing Ocean Properties, argued for a far shorter timeframe. The CDC ultimately decided to allow less than four months for plans to be formally submitted.

Addressing the same committee on Tuesday, Mahaney said, “You gave us 90 days to come up with a plan. Ocean Properties wanted only 30 days. I can see why: What they delivered probably only took them six [days] to do.”

Half the room visibly bristled.

At the meeting’s end, Bailey was walking by Mahaney when a member of the Olympia team collared him and introduced the two. Mahaney extended a hand, said Olympia spokesperson Sasha Cook, but Bailey responded instead with, “Fuck you. Six days? Fuck you,” then walked away.

“We were sort of flabbergasted,” said Cook. “To say that in front of colleagues and a lady [Portland Press Herald reporter Kelley Bouchard]… It’s a competitive process, and people say things, but there’s no need to involve profanity.”

“I used the vernacular perhaps he doesn’t hear much in Greenwich, Connecticut,” Bailey told The Bollard, referring to the town the Olympic medal-winning sailor calls home. Mahaney’s comment “set me off,” he added. Ocean Properties “worked hard on this proposal. Mr. Walsh was standing right there. I thought it was an insulting remark.” 

Mahaney pursued Bailey down the City Hall hallway and confronted him about the remark. Mahaney did not respond to a call seeking comment today, but Bailey said Mahaney asked him to apologize.

“I said, ‘I’ll be happy to apologize if you’ll apologize [for the “six days” comment],'” said Bailey. “He didn’t say anything.”

Both sides are now trying to move past the incident and get on with the task at hand: making lots and lots of money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unmasked: Museum director Oscar Mokeme following his March 11 arrest. (photo/courtesy Cumberland County Jail)

 

Museum director arrested again
Oscar Mokeme, director of the Museum of African Culture (formerly the Museum of African Tribal Art), on Spring Street, was arrested on the afternoon of March 11 and charged with domestic violence assault. 

The incident took place on Peaks Island, at the home of his wife, Sharon Mokeme. Sources say the couple are separated. 

In October of 2003, Mokeme was arrested following an incident at the couple’s Oakland Avenue home. Police said Mokeme punched his wife, threatened to hit her with a piece of statuary, and threatened to kill her.

Mokeme pleaded innocent to the charges of assault, criminal threatening and terrorizing. He told The Portland Forecaster the incident had been blown out of proportion by a neighbor “jealous of my work and the support the community gives to me and my family.” The couple have two young sons.

Police are releasing few details about this latest incident. Portland police spokesperson Lt. Tony Ward said only that “the victim” was not treated for any injuries, but that there were “signs of an assault” at the scene.

Mokeme did not return a message seeking comment today. 

 

March 16, 2007

New way to get hammered at Norm’s
Norm Jabar has parlayed his punk-rock roots into a successful career as a restaurateur with three popular Portland establishments: Norm’s East End Grill, on Middle Street, and Norm’s Bar & Grill and the Downtown Lounge, on Congress Street. This summer, Jabar is launching a new business downtown: Urban Hardware, a small, neighborhood hardware store geared to meet the day-to-day needs of apartment and condo dwellers, local homeowners and businesspeople.

Urban Hardware is slated to open this July in a space on the corner of Congress and Park streets most recently occupied by a phone-card store. It’ll carry necessities like hammers, nails, screwdrivers, light bulbs, and tape, as well as some power tools and seasonal items, like patio and grill accessories, snow shovels and rakes. 

Jabar, 42, has spent over 25 years in the restaurant business, and admits he’s “a little nervous” about branching out into this new enterprise. With the store, Jabar said he’ll be “following the model of my restaurants: make it accessible to everybody.” 

Helpful, personalized service will be an important attraction, he said – a contrast to the impersonal experience of shopping at mega-stores like Home Depot. “People want to go somewhere where they know somebody, instead of walkin’ into some big fuckin’ box store where nobody’s there to help ya.”

Amen.

 

Public Enemy No. 2: Filmmaker Bang-Bangs, in Osama bin Laden mask, dancing on the shore of Eastport in "Bang-Bangs Invades Amercia."
Public Enemy No. 2: Filmmaker Bang-Bangs, in Osama bin Laden mask, dancing on the shore of Eastport in "Bang-Bangs Invades Amercia."

 

Feds fans of Bang-Bangs?
(Editor’s note: Bollard contributor Bang-Bangs recently sent us the following press release. To view the short film that’s apparently drawn federal scrutiny, “Bang-Bangs Invades America,” click here. – C.B.)

Eastport, ME: On March 15, conceptual artist and Bollard contributor Bang-Bangs was perusing statistics for his Web site, bang-bangs.com, when he noticed the server address of his most frequent visitor in recent days: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. According to Bang-Bangs’ Webalizer Report, his site was visited by government officials no less than eight times in the first week of March.

“I’m not surprised, just surprised it took so long,” Bang-Bangs said. “I mean, I posted a short film of me, dressed in a burka, rowing a rowboat across an international border in November 2006 – and they’re just getting around to viewing the film now? I think that’s a problem. Shouldn’t they have watched it earlier?”

The film, which demonstrated the ease of penetrating the U.S.’s eastern-most border, wasn’t a secret. In addition to posting it on his own site, plus on YouTube and The Bollard, Bang-Bangs had a 10-minute, primetime interview with Canadian public radio, and his exploits were mentioned by as many as six bloggers.

“In late February, I noticed the site was visited by three different U.S. Coast Guard servers, but I just thought they mistook bang-bangs.com for a porn site,” said the artist and filmmaker, who currently lives in Eastport. “And though the stats program shows that every government visitor watched all seven movies on my site, I’m sure they were most interested in ‘Bang-Bangs Invades America.’ Then again, since the film ‘Bang-Bangs’ Seven Predictions for 2007′ [click here to see that film] forecasts the death of Dick Cheney, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Secret Service visits the site by the end of the summer or early next year.”

Bang-Bangs’ newest film, “Mutant Dollies,” is currently in post-production, and is expected to debut on The Bollard later this month. 

 

March 14, 2007

Debunking Marshall's divinity: City Councilors Donna Carr and Dave Marshall at the Council's inauguration ceremony last December. (photo/Chris Busby)
Debunking Marshall's divinity: City Councilors Donna Carr and Dave Marshall at the Council's inauguration ceremony last December. (photo/Chris Busby)

Dave Marshall not ‘God’
A minor procedural disagreement with City Councilor Dave Marshall prompted Councilor Donna Carr to storm out of the March 13 Public Safety Committee meeting in anger. 

Just before the spat, Marshall, chairman of the three-member Council committee, had been discussing an administrative issue with city attorney Gary Wood – the matter concerned the protocol staff follow when submitting background materials for Council meetings. Following several minutes of this discussion, Marshall called it to an end and attempted to move on to the next agenda item – sidewalk snow removal. 

Carr, however, said she had an additional comment to make on the administrative matter.

“No, we’re moving on to the next item,” Marshall declared.

Carr persisted, and said she’d never heard of a fellow councilor refusing to hear an additional comment from a colleague.

“I’m the chair,” Marshall said. 

To which Carr replied, her voice raised: “That doesn’t make you God!” With that, she walked out.

“I’m so angry,” Carr said minutes later outside Council Chambers. “These two Greens think they’re going to make the rules” – a reference to Marshall and Councilor Kevin Donoghue, both registered Green Independent Party members recently elected to the officially non-partisan body. Donoghue was not present at the meeting.

“I will take this somewhere,” Carr vowed. 

Sources say Carr has already contacted Mayor Nick Mavodones about the incident. 

“I didn’t mean to offend Donna,” said Marshall, who called Carr after the meeting to apologize. “I hope we can move forward,” he told The Bollard.

The incident has shades of similar partisan disharmony the Portland School Committee has experienced of late. Donoghue and Marshall are the first Greens to ever win a City Council seat. Carr is a registered Democrat, and is up for reelection this fall. She said earlier this year that she intends to seek a second term.

 

March 1, 2007

photo/Chris Busby
photo/Chris Busby

Too much heat closes kitchen?
The Venue, a restaurant and bar on Forest Avenue, opened and closed within just a few weeks earlier this year, and the owner is blaming a specific group of regulars for its demise – cops. 

“It was harassment of the business,” said Despina Mihalakis, who claims police showed up 10 times or more, often in packs of several officers, shortly after The Venue opened its doors. Their presence scared away customers, she said, and the loss of revenue compelled her to close the place. 

Mihalakis and her family still operate a pizza shop in Winthrop, which she said has not had similar problems.

Having turned the Old Port into a mini–police state, are Portland cops now setting their sights on off-peninsula watering holes?

Well, not exactly. 

Law enforcers were apparently less interested in Mihalakis’ souvlaki as they were in her son, 26-year-old Efstathios “Steve” Mihalakis, of Winthrop, who’s now facing life in prison on drug charges.

According to a press release from the U.S. Marshals Office, Steve Mihalakis is “the alleged leader of sixteen others in a major cocaine conspiracy.” He is the last of the group to be nabbed on suspicion of conspiring to distribute over 500 grams of nose candy.

Marshals and local cops in Florida, working on a tip from marshals in Maine, apprehended Mihalakis without incident on Jan .31 as he was traveling on an interstate highway. He’ll be transferred from custody in Florida to a jail in Maine later this month.

Lt. Anthony Ward, commander of the Portland Police Department’s criminal investigation division, said Portland cops know nothing about Mihalakis or The Venue. A Portland-based Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officer also claimed ignorance of the matter.

Based on press reports and the aforementioned press release, it seems The Venue’s regular non-paying customers were actually Lewiston cops, members of the Central Maine Violent Crimes Task Force, federal marshals and state DEA agents (apparently not those based in Portland). 

A Feb. 5 article in the Lewiston Sun Journal notes that after the 16 other members of Mihalakis’ alleged drug ring were captured earlier in January, “Lewiston police and other agencies pulled out the stops” to find Mihalakis. This redoubled effort coincides with the short period The Venue was open.

Despina Mihalakis acknowledged that the cops were inquiring about her son, but still feels their visits were excessive. She does not plan to take legal action over The Venue’s closure, and has not been charged with any crime herself. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Perry said he has no information to indicate The Venue was investigated in connection with Steve Mihalakis’ alleged activities.

Previously occupied by Young’s Auto Radiator, the property was purchased by Despina Mihalakis and her husband in August 2005 for $415,000. The family spent well over a year renovating it. The building is now for sale for $695,000. 

In its listing of the property, brokerage company Magnusson Balfour promotes it as a “turnkey” restaurant and bar. “Unfortunately, the building owners are experiencing illness in the family which prevents them from opening the restaurant themselves,” it states.

 

Girls vs. Bees
News earlier this month that Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby is buying the old St. Angars Church in Bayside and evicting A Company of Girls, the non-profit theater group, set tongues wagging around town.

Some wondered how Quimby – who’s warmed liberal hearts by buying and preserving huge areas of Maine woodland – could be so cold-hearted as to evict the struggling arts program. 

Others wondered how the building’s owner, the non-profit People’s Regional Opportunity Program (PROP), could do the same to a fellow non-profit by selling the community performance space A Company of Girls is leasing. (That answer’s easy: PROP needed the cash for other programs.)

Still others wondered what other Portland properties Quimby had snatched up, and whether non-profits occupying those spaces would also be sent packing. 

Quimby’s been a bit cagey about the whole thing. She has not responded to The Bollard‘s request for comment.

In an e-mail to the Portland Press Herald, she confirmed her pending purchase of the Mayo Street church, and said she intends to convert it into an artist studio, art gallery and private residence. “As an artist, I enjoy preserving and enhancing [historic buildings] to keep them relevant and functioning in the modern world,” she wrote to the daily. 

The paper noted that Quimby’s bought other buildings in town, but was apparently unable to get her to identify them.

Public records show that one of Quimby’s companies, Seaside Partners – described in a recent Business Week article as “a real estate development firm that renovates and sells high-end properties in Portland, Me., and Palm Beach, Fla.” – owns four other properties here. All are private residences, three tony homes and a condo, in the West End and downtown.

The daily reports that PROP listed the church for $350,000 and Quimby bought it for $255,000 – about $12,000 less than its tax-assessed value.

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