State officials revoked the liquor license of a downtown Portland bar last week after the applicants removed the name of a minority owner who would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI in Pennsylvania.

Sagamore Hill’s license was revoked on Thursday. The bar at the corner of Congress and Park streets had been open only since June.

A sign on the door of the lounge, a Theodore Roosevelt-themed cosmopolitan hunting lodge with stuffed deer, moose and bear heads affixed to the walls, attributes the closure to “clerical errors in our business licensing paperwork.”

“Ooops!” says the sign, which was uploaded to Facebook on Friday. “We will be taking this opportunity to ramp up our menu offerings, take our staff on some field trips and to take a much needed break after almost two years of planning and construction and busy summer season.”

A Sept. 5 screenshot shows an image posted to the Sagamore Hill Lounge Facebook page on August 31, 2018. blaming the bar’s closure on “some clerical errors” in the bar’s paperwork. The state revoked the bar’s liquor license after a former minority owner pleaded guilty to making a false statement to investigators in a Pennsylvania corruption case.

Owner Ryan Deskins said he amended the documents for his limited liability company, Atwater Holdings, in November. The change, which removed a minority owner, was made at the suggestion of his accountant, he said.

“It was literally to simplify my tax situation and make me 100 percent owner,” Deskins said.

The change removed Michael J. Savona from the company. He had controlled a 10 percent stake, while Deskins owned the rest.

After the change to the company’s structure and after the liquor license was approved, Savona was implicated in a corruption scandal in Lower Southampton, Pennsylvania, dating back to when he was a town solicitor in 2016. The Bucks County Courier Times reported last December that Savona resigned from a law firm that represents several Pennsylvania municipalities.

After being charged in February, Savona pleaded guilty to making a false statement to investigators about whether he knew about a $10,000 bribe that was allegedly paid by a marketing salesman to a district judge and township public safety director, the Courier Times reported in March. The bribe was to secure a low-cost lease for a digital billboard.

None of this was an issue when Sagamore Hill went before the Portland City Council in November. Savona had not been charged nor had he pleaded guilty. A check of his criminal background in Maine came back clean, according to application materials submitted to the council.

The word “no” was checked next to a question asking whether the applicant or manager(s) had even been convicted of a violating any law, other than minor traffic violations, in any state of the U.S.

However, Deskins made the change after his license had been approved by the Portland City Council and before it was submitted to the state.

City Hall Communications Director Jessica Grondin said the city and state looked into the discrepancy in the records after receiving an email from a reporter in Pennsylvania who had covered Sanova’s legal troubles.

Last Thursday, Laurence Sanborn, division manager of liquor enforcement for the state, informed the city about his findings “during the investigation of possible application fraud.”

“The fact that the original application submitted to the City of Portland, then reviewed and approved, was altered before its arrival at my office give(s) me great concern to the character of the applicant or applicants,” Sanborn said in an email to the city. “I find that the original application was issued erroneously based on false and misleading statements or information.”

The bar plans to resubmit its application at the City Council’s first meeting in October.

 

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