Wednesday, August 23, 2006

NEWS: Hooters and the Blowhards

Well, Portland's BRILLIANT city government, after managing with the help of all their hotel-owning friends to drive all but 2 (count 'em, TWO) rock clubs out of our once thriving downtown rock scene, has somehow managed to let a Hooters (yes, you heard me right) set up on Congress Street in the large building currently being used by the Stadium (technically access to the club will not be on Congress Street, but off of the side and back street entrances. Close enough, I say).

For a town that is apparently scared to death of rock and roll, but doesn't do anything to shut down the boozehouses of the Old Port that flood the streets with violent jerks every weekend night, this fits right in. Keep it up, guys, pretty soon Portland will be a cultural wasteland with no individuality or creative center.

This is not to say that I'm anti-Hooters, though as a chain it is not high on my list of places I want intown, where we should be focusing on local businesses -- it's just that hearing about this within less than a week of The Alehouse's closing, it rankles. Just a little. Kind of like getting razor wire stuck between your teeth.

Face it folks, this city is going to hell. And not in a religious way. Just in a "Why am I living and doing business and trying to forge a piece of creative living space here?" kind of way.

Here's the story from The Bollard's breaking news flash:
Hooters restaurant planned for downtown Portland
City officials criticize chain’s image, impact
By Chris Busby

Hooters is coming to town. The Atlanta-based international restaurant franchise famous – some would say infamous – for its image of ample-breasted waitresses in tight shirts and short shorts will set up shop in the Free Street space currently occupied by The Stadium.

Stadium owner Michael Harris said Hooters will occupy the portion of his 31,000-square-foot building that fronts Free Street and Brown Street, and The Stadium will move into the vacant portion of the building facing Congress Street. Harris will own both the franchise and The Stadium. He also owns The Oasis, a Wharf Street bar and dance club.

News of Hooters’ arrival in downtown Portland has already stirred the ire of some city officials, for a variety of reasons.
[City Councilor Karen] Geraghty is equally disturbed by the prospect of a chain restaurant opening in the heart of downtown.

“I hope this is a wake-up call to the city to really look at the issue, the role of chain restaurants and chain stores in the downtown area,” said Geraghty. She added that “it’s ironic” Hooters is coming to town so soon after a new initiative was launched to promote locally owned, independent business in town.
City Councilor Will Gorham said he’s concerned about the prospect of another alcohol-serving establishment on Congress Street. Gorham represents the East End, the portion of downtown that includes The Stadium, and the Old Port. He also chairs a city task force set up to find ways to address problems posed by drunken crowds in the Old Port.

“I don’t want to recreate another Wharf Street along Congress Street,” said Gorham. As for Hooters, Gorham said, “There are good chain restaurants,” and noted he once ate at a Hooters in Orlando, Florida.
Construction will begin within the next 30 days, and the restaurant could be open by the end of the year, Harris said. He said it will create 70 to 80 new jobs and “bring thousands of people” to a downtown area that needs more business and foot traffic.
Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard. He can be reached at editor(AT)
Please also note another disturbing trend in Portland, as if we don't have enough hotels already, in this other Bollard article, which describes how a developer is working to squeeze successful local landmark pub Brian Boru's out of its home off Fore Street:
Big plans brewing around Brian Ború
Scarborough developer buys lot across from Civic Center
By Chris Busby

A Scarborough developer is squeezing the Portland Irish pub Brian Ború – literally. Developer Kerry Anderson recently purchased the lot surrounding Brian Ború, a sizeable parcel in the middle of town bounded by Spring, Center, Fore and Cotton streets.

Ború co-owner Laurence Kelly said Anderson demanded he move the fence that encloses a small patio a few feet north, effectively shrinking the patio, because it was encroaching on his property line. Kelly and two other partners own both the century-old building and the land it occupies, but the surrounding lot is Anderson's, including buildings occupied by the cocktail lounge Una, Portland Pie, the sports bar and restaurant Rivalries, and several offices.

Kelly said Anderson has spoken of developing a large "complex" on the lot, potentially comprised of a hotel, condominiums, retail shops, offices or some combination thereof. There's also been discussion of a convention center, said Kelly, and interest from members of the Cumberland County Civic Center Board of Trustees. The Civic Center is diagonally across the intersection of Spring and Center streets from Anderson's lot.

For the rest of the article, please see The Bollard's website.
For more on the Alehouse's closing, please see the background story here at The Phoenix, and for the story of the last night's farewell show pick up the Phoenix's latest issue, on the stands today.


downeast misanthrope said...

Night life is under attack everywhere. We spent some time in Atlanta to go see friends & concerts, and got an earful from the cab drivers downtown-- there, they've effectively killed Atlanta's nightlife scene, except of course for a couple high profile sanctioned areas. San Francisco's nightlife has just about died as well due to many of the same reasons.

The drill appears to be:

- downtown area stagnates, rents get cheap because "regular people" don't want to live there.

- artists & bohemians move in due to cheap living spaces

- night life improves because new residents create their own cultural scene

- previously blighted area gets gentrified, more people start moving to the area

- new wave of residents move into the area because of the vibrant community they find

- new residents complain that their vibrant community makes noise

- noise ordinances get passed, clubs get closed, new residents enjoy their peace & quiet until...

- artists & bohemians have moved away due to absurd cost of living increases brought on by the influx of loft/condo developments (built on the ruins of the once vibrant social scene, which they sorely miss)

- new residents realize they're living in the middle of a dead city, so they move on to their next target.

- restart loop at first bullet item. Repeat ad nauseum.

Sadly, the beauty of cities such as Portland suffer from this cycle, and the cycle gets less and less appealing as the world's population increases. The next time Portland's cultural center is thriving, it'll be a city of 2+ million, rather than ~150,000 (I'm counting the outlying metro region, not just the 65k residents of city proper).

Anonymous said...

I think Hooters should be allowed to come to Maine. This state is full of rude yuppies who don’t want to live outside the box who are stuck in there ways! Yes I am a female and I like go to Hooters for the food. So what if the girls wear tight/revealing clothes. If you got it flaunt it!