City Council Grants “Exchange Street Club” Licenses; “ANOTHER Bar?”


Old Port Controversial Landlord Joe Soley, Mark Dean,  Developer Jonathan Cohen and Greg Mitchell, Economic Development Office Director at Tonight’s Meeting.  Cohen is the Developer for the New WEX Headquarters on the Portland Waterfront and for Ten Exchange Street, Condominiums.

Mark Dean, Applicant for Entertainment and Dance License for – “Exchange Street Club” at Ten Exchange Street

The City Council unanimously granted Mark Dean his application for a liquor and entertainment license for the Exchange Street Club – a space he leased in August  for the ground floor of Ten Exchange Street in the Old Port, Portland this evening.

The entertainment license was issued with the caveat that staff would report back to the City Council by April 30, 2018 on whether or not there were  issues surrounding the Exchange Street Club to be resolved.

Ordinarily comparable licenses are issued pro forma.  However, this case received unusual scrutiny from the city council – almost two hours worth – because of the concerns of businesses in the area (some of whom are tenants of Joe Soley, a controversial landlord in the Old Port and refuse to speak on the record for fear of retribution).  The venue for the Exchange Street Club is owned by Soley, although Cohen is the developer for the upper two floors of the building.

At least one condominium owner who purchased a unit at Ten Exchange Street did it with no knowledge that a bar was going to be in the space on the first floor he told this blogger several weeks ago.  At the closing of his unit in September, Jonathan Cohen, developer of this project as well as the new WEX headquarters on the Portland waterfront,  assured the purchaser that the empty space would be used for “storage” and nothing else.

But, Dean had signed a lease in August for $10,000. per month for the “storage” space to become the “Exchange Street Club,” according to documents seen at city hall.

Councilors could find no legal reason to deny the entertainment license to Mark Dean, owner of other bars in the Old Port.   Councilor Nick Mavadones conducted a thorough quizzing of city staff – leaving no rock unturned in his search for a legal justification to deny the license or in the alternative to pledge to Cohen his fidelity to his skills as a developer.  In a show of financial might, applicant Dean sat in between the wealthy Joe Soley and Jonathan Cohen during the meeting.  Dean left his seat several times during the protracted hearing to answer questions from the Council, but Soley did not address the Council. Rarely has Joe Soley been spotted in city council chambers over the years. (See above left photo.)

“ANOTHER bar in the Old Port?  We don’t need another one.  There are too many as it is,” has been the outcry of business owners on Exchange Street over the past few weeks.  The Old Port has earned a reputation as a rowdy place to be on weekend evenings – especially when the numerous bars are emptying out.

Councilor Belinda Raw, in whose district the Old Port is located,  made an effort to derail the approval. She said she’d measured the distances between the other venues with entertainment licenses in a different way than the city had. Her measurement showed  that the proposed Exchange Street Club was less than 100 ft. from other venues and consequently the entertainment might be denied.  However, that measuring technique of hers did not pass muster and Raw fell into line with the other Councilors.  The Council ultimately voted in favor of both licenses for Mark Dean.

Soley told this blogger several years ago that he was once a business partner of Spiro Agnew, VP in the Nixon administration.  Soley was in business with Agnew in the  housing business in Baltimore.  “He was a really slick salesman,” Soley told this blogger.  Agnew resigned from office rather than face a certain jail term – which he narrowly avoided anyway.  After his resignation, he lived a very restricted life because of legal restrictions placed upon him by the court.

Dean owns numerous bars in the Old Port including Marks Place, which has a reputation for scantily attired dancers who are encouraged to dance around poles on the bar tables, according to one former employee of the bar.   Dean formerly owned “Marks Showcase” a strip joint in Westbrook.

Please see previous posts herein dated October 2, 2017 and September 29, 2017 on the subject.