A moratorium freezing the expansions of non-marine uses along Portland’s working waterfront has forced the owner of a longtime restaurant to scale back plans for renovations.

The Dry Dock Restaurant & Tavern, which has been a fixture on the waterfront for more than three decades, has been closed for the last year to prepare for a renovation project that would include a new kitchen, an expansion of outdoor seating overlooking the water and the construction of a new single-story building along Commercial Street.

But a building moratorium was passed by the City Council late last year to address concerns of maritime workers and advocates. The moratorium forced owner Stephen Goodrich, who bought the restaurant in April 2016, to seek a more modest plan.

The new proposal, submitted to the city last week, would only include a small addition to the building at 84 Commercial St. that will allow the restaurant to move the kitchen from a leaky basement. It will also include the rebuilding of the rear decks, but not an expansion.

“We don’t want to create conflict in the city,” said Goodrich, a payments executive who runs payments companies and owns the nearby Maine Wharf. “I understand the big picture in the city and the sensitivity over development.”

Concerns over development, especially near the waterfront, came to a head last fall when a group of fishermen and waterfront advocates began collecting signatures for a citywide referendum to prohibit any further incursions of non-marine uses along the waterfront.

In response, the City Council last December enacted a six-month building moratorium within the Waterfront Central Zone, which covers the water side of Commercial Street from the Maine State Pier to the International Marine Terminal.

The moratorium was enacted as the referendum effort was gaining steam. The move, along with the city’s formation of a waterfront working group to address concerns from fishermen and other marine industries, helped convince the citizens group to put the referendum on hold. The group is expected to recommend zone changes for the council to consider.

The flare-up was caused by a proposal floated by developer David Bateman to build a 93-room hotel and 500-vehicle garage at 184 Commercial St., known as Fisherman’s Wharf.

After city staff signaled it would recommend eliminating a loophole that would have allowed a waterfront hotel within the zone, Bateman told the city he was pulling the hotel portion proposal. But the moratorium remains in effect at least until June 15, as the city prepares additional policy and zoning changes to appease maritime workers and advocates and preserve the working waterfront.

Last summer, Goodrich had originally proposed a two-story addition on the east side of the restaurant and a new single-story building right along Commercial Street. The proposal would have expanded the first floor outdoor dining deck by 1,400 square feet and the second floor outdoor dining deck by a little more than 1,000 square feet. A rendering included with the application also shows outdoor dining on the ground-level extending all the way to the water’s edge.

The plan was endorsed by the city’s Historic Preservation Board on Oct. 3, though the board indicated that further review would be needed of the new building along Commercial Street.

Jeff Levine, the city’s urban planning and development director, said city attorneys determined that the project would not be permissible because of the moratorium, even though it had already been endorsed by the preservation board.

Levine said the current development plan, which includes the two-story addition and deck replacement, conforms to the moratorium, because the 2,115-square-foot addition is smaller than the 2,124-square-foot basement space being abandoned.

“We felt this was consistent with the moratorium and helps preserve local jobs,” Levine said. “They can’t expand the deck – at least not during the moratorium.”

As a Level II site plan, the proposal will be reviewed by city staff, not the Planning Board.

Goodrich said that he would still like to build the single-story building along Commercial Street, which he said would be a waiting area for a water taxi business he owns. However, he will have to wait and see what zoning changes – if any – are enacted by the city during the moratorium.

But he may abandon plans to expand the outdoor decks.

“It’s something that if we could do it now, then we would do it. But if we can’t do it now, then we may not do it,” Goodrich said. “We’ll evaluate the business and see how we’re doing and see if it makes sense.”

In hindsight, Goodrich said he wishes he had kept the restaurant open longer, given the project delays. But he hopes to have the new kitchen area completed and open for the upcoming busy summer season, so the roughly 60 employees can get back to work.

“I feel bad it’s been sitting there a year looking abandoned, but I’m super excited things are moving forward,” he said. “Hopefully, whatever gets approved is something that everyone is happy with.”


Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.