Wharf Street uprising
Business owners demand dance club’s closure
By Chris Busby
Owners and employees of eight Old Port businesses on Wharf Street are calling for the immediate closure of Threeways, the Wharf Street dance club that opened last year in the space formerly occupied by Oasis. The City Council is expected to consider revoking the club’s liquor and entertainment licenses at its Oct. 15 meeting, though that outcome seems unlikely at this stage. The Portland Police Department has yet to make a recommendation regarding the licenses, and past practice suggests the club would be warned by officials and given an opportunity to improve before harsher penalties are employed.
In a letter sent last month to City Manager Joe Gray, Police Chief Tim Burton and Mayor Nick Mavodones, the business owners complained of loud music emanating from the club’s outdoor patio, and alleged that its patrons have engaged in lewd, violent and illegal acts. Among the issues they cited…
• “Drugs being bought and sold in the Plum Street alley by patrons that frequent their establishment.”
• “Scantily clad exotic dancers shaking their nearly bare buttocks at the pedestrians on Wharf Street, most of them children.”
• “Porn stars from the Girls Gone Wild videos and the pornographic posters posted on the outside of their building to announce this event.”
• “Body shots; liquor being poured on one of their female employees as she lies on the bar and lets the customers lick it off her partially clad body.”
The letter was signed by proprietors and employees of the perfumery 2 Note, the furniture store Thai’d in Knots, Fuller’s Gourmet Chocolates and Ice Cream, Waterlily Fine Imports, The Mind Gift Shop, The Bar of Chocolate Café, The Wine Bar, and Street and Co., a high-end restaurant.
Threeways owner Susan Chase told The Bollard the letter was “a huge surprise” to her. She said she has tried to reach out to the neighboring businesses to address any concerns, but received little negative feedback until now.
Several allegations in the letter are “just untrue,” she said. For example, “there were no porn stars that came with Girls Gone Wild,” said Chase, and the poster promoting the event featured “women in bikinis or shorts and tank tops; there was no nudity.”
This past summer, The Bollard went to Threeways to investigate the poster allegation and document a so-called “foam party” scheduled to take place at the club – these types of events, in which patrons dance in an area filled with foam, formed the basis of another complaint in the letter. The poster did not, in fact, display any nudity, and the foam party did not take place as scheduled. Chase said the logistics of the foam event proved unworkable, and she has not attempted to host one since.
When Chase went before councilors to get her licenses last year, she told them she eventually wanted to make the club “upscale,” but was clear that until then it would be a dance club catering to young people.
By contrast, the owners of two other drinking establishments on the same block – 51 Wharf and Cake – initially told councilors their businesses would be “upscale,” subdued places catering to older, discerning crowds. Both have since become little different than Threeways after 10 p.m. – and have had their share of rowdiness and violence – but the business owners’ letter made no mention of them.
“That’s where it gets personal,” said Chase. “What is it about us that is a problem?”
“Cake is supposed to be an upscale restaurant, but they’re not,” she continued. “51 Wharf was supposed to be an upscale restaurant, but they’re mimicking our business model.”
The Wharf Street business owners claim previous efforts to get police and city officials to address issues at Threeways have been ignored. “No one is willing to take ownership of these problems,” they wrote.
City Councilor Ed Suslovic said the neighbors’ complaints have prompted him to bring the matter before the Council for “a full hearing,” but he stopped short of making a judgment regarding the club.
Councilor Kevin Donoghue, whose district includes Wharf Street, said he’s spoken with police about employing decibel meters to determine if Threeways and other Old Port clubs are exceeding legal noise limits, but has been told that background noise in the area makes it difficult to prove any one establishment is too loud.
According to the business owners’ letter, on Sept. 1, a DJ at Threeways “cranked up the volume and screamed ‘Fuck you; I don’t care what you say I’ll do what I want!’
“This statement hopefully does not become a reality,” they concluded.