Luke’s Lobster received its liquor license for a new restaurant on Portland’s waterfront that is expected to open around Memorial Day.

The City Council’s unanimous license approval Monday came over the objections of several people who live on Portland Pier and were upset that they were never notified about the project, which received administrative approval because of its size.

Randal Rucker, president of the 40 Portland Pier Condo Association, said he was able to work out many of the condo association’s concerns, including the impact of increased traffic from patrons, except for the restaurant’s desire to be able to serve alcohol until 1 a.m. and have live outdoor entertainment.

Like others, Rucker was upset that he heard about the project from a mail carrier, rather than the city and developer, and that residents had no opportunity to have their concerns addressed.

“The hours remain a major issue,” Rucker said. “Portland Pier and Portland deserve a much better thoughtful planning process going forward.”

Bryan Holden, one of the owners of Luke’s Lobster, said he met with Rucker to address the concerns. Based on those talks, he dropped a plan to offer valet parking and will have someone on Commercial Street helping to control traffic looking to park in one of the few spaces available on the pier. He worked out a schedule for deliveries and would discourage idling of delivery trucks.

Portland Pier is prone to flooding, so Holden said he agreed to close the restaurant, which will have 130 indoor seats and 40 seats outdoors, when that occurs. He also agreed to meet at least monthly with the association and address any issues that may arise.

Holden said he needed the flexibility on the liquor license to help ensure the business was successful, especially if he’s hosting a wedding. But that doesn’t mean that drinks will be served until 1 a.m.

“We’re just looking for flexibility to not start this off with handcuff,” he said. “Just because our license says 1 a.m., doesn’t mean that’s what we’re going to do.”

City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones voted in support of the license without making any changes, saying that the council can take up any issues if they arise.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity and use for this pier,” he said.

Holden noted that he hopes to increase landings of lobster at the attached lobster pound and is looking to increase berthing of lobster boats. There are currently nine berths – two more than when they started – and they hope to add a few more, he said.

City staff said the project is a good example of how to support the working waterfront. The city has formed a working group to address issues that fishermen say are jeopardizing their future on the Portland waterfront, including hotel proposals and increased traffic congestion.

Planning Director Tuck O’Brien noted that $1 million had been invested into that pier.

“This is the kind of work that is going to allow the working waterfront to thrive,” O’Brien said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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