Business owners on Exchange Street in the Old Port are not happy about a new tenant that could move into 8 Exchange Street, property formerly occupied by a movie theatre and a “vape” retailer. The business will also occupy some office space on the second floor of the building. The property is owned by controversial landlord Joe Soley. (See below right photo.) Business owners intend to tell the City Council about their concerns at the Monday, October 2 meeting – next week.
That’s because an application for a Class A Lounge that includes entertainment and dancing was filed earlier this month by Mark Dean. It’s on the agenda for the meeting – a process that is usually not contentious. Dean is the owner of numerous bars in the area including Marks Place, at 416 Fore Street. Therein is the issue for neighboring businesses:
“Dean employs scantily dressed dancers there,” said one business owner this afternoon. “We don’t want that kind of business right here amidst us.”
Marks Sports Bar, 50 Wharf Street, also owned by Dean, plans to relocate his business to the Ten Exchange Street location. The rent at the proposed location is a whopping $10,000. according to a copy of the lease seen at city hall and signed by Steve Baumann, of Compass Rose, on behalf of Joe Soley, property owner. There is a sign in the 50 Wharf Street window announcing that the current tenant is relocating.
Dean’s financial backer at the Wharf Street location is Jonathan Cohen, the developer for the new WEX headquarters on the Portland waterfront. He is also the financial backer for the proposed Exchange Street Club. Cohen, who prefers to keep a low profile, is also the developer of the 10 Exchange Street condominium units directly above the proposed Exchange Street Club. (Those units were formerly owned by Joe Soley and have just completed a major renovation after having been condemned and empty for years. Tom Landry is the real estate broker for the address.) Condominium owners at 10 Exchange Street will have direct access to the Exchange Street Club.
A stressed and at times hostile city hall employee on the third floor in the inspections department said she’d fielded many telephone calls from people concerned about the proposed Exchange Street Club. “I just told them it will be okay. It won’t be what they fear it will be.”
Dean owns Rosie’s; the Pearl; Old Port Slice Bar in Maine as well as businesses in New Hampshire and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.