Published: October 13, 2008

photo/Chris Busby

Big Mama’s closed; Papaya King coming

Big Mama’s Diner has served its last homefry. The beloved breakfast and lunch spot in the heart of the Old Port on Dana Street closed today after 12 years. Owner Steve Boyes said he and his wife Angie simply got tired of slinging eggs seven days a week. Boyes said he may get back in the restaurant business at some point in the future.

A Papaya King franchisee who has been operating a Papaya King cart in Deering Oaks and, last winter, operated it next to the back deck of Amigos, the bar and Mexican restaurant next to Big Mama’s, plans to take over the space, Boyes said. 







October 10, 2008

Mayor “shouted down” by fellow councilors at Dem forum
Portland Mayor Ed Suslovic was, in his words, “shouted down” by a group of fellow city councilors at a Democratic Party candidate forum held last night at King Middle School. 

Suslovic said the outburst happened as he was saying that both The Olympia Companies and Ocean Properties were deemed by a financial analyst hired by the city to have met the minimum financial requirements necessary to complete the projects they proposed for the Maine State Pier. At that point, Suslovic said, Councilors Nick Mavodones, Jill Duson and Dan Skolnik “started yelling: ‘Liar!’ ‘That’s not true!’ ‘That’s executive session information!'” 

Forum moderator Sive Neilan, chair of the Portland Democratic City Committee, scolded the councilors, telling them they would not tolerate similar behavior during a council meeting, observers and forum participants said. 

During the “outburst,” Suslovic said, “the looks on the faces of people in the audience was disgust, shock… To me, it was a real low point in terms of public discourse.”

But wait — it gets lower. 

Duson said she had not clearly heard Suslovic’s comments and did not shout in response to them — it was the other two. “If [Suslovic] wanted to tell the truth, he would say the two male councilors sitting to my right interrupted him,” she said. 

Skolnik refuses to speak to The Bollard. Suslovic said he received a voice-mail message from Skolnik last night “acknowledging that his behavior was wrong.” 

Mavodones said he “objected” because he felt Suslovic was beginning to disclose financial information councilors and the analyst had discussed in a private, “executive” session before Olympia’s bid was chosen. He said he also objected to the notion that Olympia and Ocean Properties were “equal” in terms of their financial capacity to complete their projects. 

“If I hadn’t been interrupted by their yelling,” said Suslovic, “I would have said the analyst went on to say, ‘Clearly, Ocean Properties has much greater financial capacity.'” Suslovic said he was merely noting that both were deemed to have met the minimum financial requirements, a fact previously disclosed in public discussion of the matter. 

Mavodones, Duson and Skolnik support one of Suslovic’s challengers, Dory Waxman. The three councilors also supported Ocean Properties’ pier proposal (Suslovic voted for Olympia’s plan). Waxman worked as a “community liaison” for Ocean Properties during its pier bid, helping to promote the company’s project to citizens and city officials.

Waxman was present at last night’s forum, which was limited to Democratic candidates for non-partisan city offices. Tina Smith, a registered Green Independent, is also challenging Suslovic’s re-election bid.

Waxman did not return a call seeking comment this afternoon. 

Naomi Mermin, a candidate for the District 5 (North Deering) council seat, said most of the 20 or so people in the audience wore stickers expressing support for Waxman, who has been an active party organizer in the past. 

Suslovic said Waxman “did not say a word” about the incident. “She did not apologize. She did not distance herself from that. In my view, her silence seems to indicate acceptance.” 

Mavodones said he feels no need to apologize. “I don’t have any interest in talking with him about that,” he said. “Other than speaking probably louder than I probably should have,” Mavodones said he feels he did nothing wrong. 

He went on to accuse Suslovic of further wrongdoing. For one thing, Mavodones said he’s been to two candidate events in the past week where campaign palm cards bearing a controversial quote by Maine House Speaker Glenn Cummings were available to the public. Last week, Waxman filed an ethics complaint with state officials over Suslovic’s use of the quote from a Portland Press Heraldarticle last spring, in which Cummings called Suslovic “visionary.” [See “Ethics charges fly in council race,” Oct. 7, in News.]

Mavodones said he though Suslovic had agreed to stop distributing the cards. “I think it speaks to his integrity” — or lack thereof — that the cards are still in circulation, Mavodones said. 

Suslovic said he agreed to remove Cummings’ quote from his Web site and not use it in “any future campaign literature to be produced,” not to destroy the cards already printed. Asked how many cards are left, Suslovic declined to estimate. “I’m trying to get them out as fast as I can, because they’re not getting any votes sitting in the box,” he said. 

Mavodones also said that just before the forum began, Suslovic moved Waxman’s personal belongings from the center of the table, closest to the moderator’s podium, to the end of the table. In other words, Mavodones accused the mayor of stealing Waxman’s seat.

“He’s worried about apologies,” Mavodones said. “But it’s pretty rude on his behalf to do that. It’s a pretty small thing, but it tells you a bit about Ed.”

“This is really ridiculous,” Suslovic said when told of his colleague’s accusation. He said he noticed the items when he got to the table, asked Waxman if they were hers, and offered to sit further down, to which Waxman replied she would be willing to sit further down, and did. 

“Chairgate,” as its been dubbed, surely won’t influence the election, but as an illustration of how rancorous and petty this council campaign has become, it speaks volumes. 


October 7, 2008

Granny’s/Billy’s/Grandes closes
One downtown eatery shut its doors for good earlier this month, but it seems like Portland lost three chowhouses in the process.

Grandes Burritos Taqueria, on Congress Street, was only open a few weeks before it met its demise, but its roots stretched back more than two decades. Owner Jonathan St. Laurent previously operated Uncle Billy’s Resto-Bar at the location, after several years serving barbeque in Yarmouth and many more in Portland’s East End (and, before that, South Portland). 

Billy’s was reborn on Congress Street in early 2007, but a little over a year later, St. Laurent joined forces with Chris Godin, owner of Granny’s Burritos, which shut its doors on Fore Street in late 2007 after 13 years. The pair operated the business as Granny’s Burritos, but that partnership fell apart this summer. St. Laurent renamed the place Grandes Burritos Taqueria — a none-too-subtle reference to Granny’s name — and continued to serve burritos and other Mexican fare until this month. 

A sign in the window linked the eatery’s demise to larger problems in the U.S. economy these days. There is no indication either (or any) of the restaurant’s incarnations will return.

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