Council denies Slainte’s liquor license
By a margin of 7-2, with Councilors Dan Skolnik and Nick Mavodones in the minority, the Portland City Council voted to deny the liquor and entertainment license renewal requests for Slainte, a small, staid Bayside bar nabbed several times by the Portland Police Department’s undercover, underage-drinking sting operation this year.
Owner and manager Ian Farnsworth said he intends to appeal the decision to state licensing authorities. The Preble Street business will remain open in the interim.
Other than being stung by undercover agents posing as legal-age patrons, Slainte has not had significant problems. To the contrary, the bar has contributed to public safety by virtue of being the only business open on the dark, downtown block at night. The establishment caters to an older clientele, fans of jazz and acoustic music in their late 20s and up. Three people, including Farnsworth — the son of former State Rep. Dick Farnsworth — stand to lose their livelihoods.
The first incident police cited in their recommendation for denial of the licenses involved two young men arrested, with Farnsworth’s assistance, for stealing wallets and purses in the bar and fleeing. Officers said both men, who are underage, had been drinking at the bar prior to their arrest. Farnsworth told councilors he recalled carding one of the men and refusing to serve the other, but was apparently duped by a fake ID. The resolution of that alleged violation is still pending.
Cops subsequently sent undercover “decoys” into Slainte on several additional occasions, and managed to fool either Farnsworth or his bartender, musician Katrina Abramo, into serving the agents, one of whom was 19 at the time. That agent told Abramo she had left her ID at home, and Abramo apparently believed her.
Farnsworth promised councilors similar incidents would not be repeated. He has taken several steps recommended by police, including hiring a doorman and giving his staff additional training.
But most councilors were unswayed by that. Several, including Councilor John Anton, said they were concerned that granting the licenses would set a bad precedent for future license reviews.
The police department was actually prepared to recommend approval of the licenses, with some reservations, this fall, after three citations for serving to a minor were issued. However, in October, shortly before Farnsworth was able to arrange additional training for his staff, they managed to sting the business again and reversed their recommendation.
Farnsworth did not have an attorney representing him at tonight’s meeting, and no one spoke on the bar’s behalf — or against it.
— Chris Busby