PORTLAND, Maine (MCT) — The Portland Police Department is once again seeking to have a popular Old Port bar shut down.
The department is recommending that the City Council not renew the liquor license of The Cactus Club, 416 Fore St.
A hearing on the bar’s license renewal had been scheduled for Dec. 20, but has been postponed to the council’s Jan. 3 meeting.
David Turesky, a Portland lawyer who represented Thomas Manning, the Cactus Club’s owner, during the last round of license hearings, says he is not surprised by the police department’s latest attempt to close his client’s business.
Turesky said the department seems to be targeting the Cactus Club, one of numerous bars and restaurants that operate in Portland’s Old Port district.
“Our defense will be that it’s a well-run place and not a problem for any of its neighbors,” Turesky said.
In July, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the Cactus Club in its appeal of the City Council’s February 2009 decision not to renew the establishment’s liquor license.
Turesky argued that the license should be reinstated because the city exceeded the 120-day limit to inform the owner of its decision not to renew the license. Justices agreed that the city made a mistake and ruled that the club’s license should be renewed automatically.
At their January meeting, city councilors will look to a Police Department review of the Cactus Club’s operations that covered the period between Dec. 17, 2009, and Nov. 29, 2010.
Portland Police said they responded to the club or to its immediate vicinity a total of 32 times during that period.
The department’s review also cites several calls for service on the premises, including one verbal domestic dispute, four fights, and three disturbance calls.
“We recognize the number of calls for police service to this establishment has decreased in comparison to the prior review period. We remain convinced that the Cactus Club presents an unacceptable risk to public safety,” said Lt. Gary Hutcheson in his report to the city.
The Police Department review, which is posted on the city’s website, cites a March 12 incident where two intoxicated women were found by police lying on the sidewalk in front of the Cactus Club. Police allege both women had been removed by club staff.
One of the women appeared to be unconscious and needed to be transported by ambulance for possible alcohol poisoning. Both were dressed in thin, short dresses with no protection from the elements. Police allege the women had been drinking “Fruity Drinks” inside the club.
“We believe public safety would be significantly improved if the Cactus Club were closed,” the review concludes.
Assistant Police Chief Mike Sauschuck said, “It is certainly a place of concern for us.”
City Attorney Gary Wood said that Manning filed a five page letter with the city on Wednesday, requesting documentation that pertains to the department’s allegations. Manning also requested that the license hearing be postponed until late January to allow Turesky the time he needs to prepare.
Wood said it will be up to the council to decide whether the hearing should be delayed a second time.
Manning could not be reached, but Wood released the letter to the Portland Press Herald.
“I do wish to remind you and the City Council that as was the case two years ago, no customer, no neighbor, no employee and no member of the general public has objected to or manifested any disagreement with our re-licensure. Ours is a well-run, quiet, law abiding and respectful business within this mixed but very busy neighborhood,” Manning said.