The Hydeout at the Wharf in Hallowell on Nov. 17. Bar owner Wayne Hyde says the property owner has refused to renew his lease while also raising his rent by $500, so he has begun looking for a new location. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

HALLOWELL — Some residents were devastated when Hydeout at the Wharf owner Wayne Hyde said the city’s beloved dive bar was facing an uncertain future, with the property owner raising rent while refusing to renew his lease.

Hyde soon saw a flood of support on social media, and patrons even protested in support of the bar in late November.

And Monday, they brought their concerns to the City Council.

Resident Frank O’Hara and state Rep. Charlotte Warren, a city resident who represents Hallowell, Manchester and West Gardiner, provided officials with a proclamation to save the Wharf and to ensure that business owners and tenants can continue to thrive in the community.

Councilors did not approve the proclamation, but they did vote to hold both one-on-one meetings with property and business owners as well as public meetings to discuss what can be done to retain the bar.

“The Wharf has been an essential part of the fabric of Hallowell for over 40 years,” the proclamation read, “serving as a home for lovers of jazz, a platform for upcoming new musicians, a place to hold community fundraisers for families in need, and a place to celebrate birthdays and the lives of those who have passed away, a place where dancing spills out onto the street.”

The proclamation stated that Hallowell has tools, such as code enforcement, tax increment financing funds and zoning changes that could be used to encourage the Wharf’s landlord, Stephen Hammond, to keep the business at its current location.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Hallowell City Council directs its city manager to meet with the affected parties and report back to the city council at its January 10th meeting with the draft strategy to save the Hydeout at the Wharf business at its current location or an equivalent location on Water Street,” the proclamation concluded.

The 130-138 Water St. property, which houses The Wharf and consists of nine residential and five retail units, is currently listed via LUX Realty for $2,995,000.

Councilor Maureen AuCoin said she wholeheartedly supported the sentiment of the resolution, adding that the city has seen similar situations with affordable housing for residents, and now it’s starting to spill into the commercial side of the city.

“We’re talking about The Wharf, but we’re not talking about The Wharf,” she said. “The Wharf is kind of the canary in the coal mine.”

Wayne Hyde stands in his bar Nov. 17 at Hydeout at the Wharf in Hallowell. Hyde says the property owner has refused to renew his lease while also raising his rent by $500, so he has begun looking for a new location. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AuCoin agreed with the suggestions in the proclamation, saying that the finance committee could look at tax increment financing possibilities, or possibly offer credit enhancement agreements to landlords willing to protect historic businesses.

“I think we can leave this meeting not just by supporting this resolution, but by actually taking action steps from here. I think it’s just going to snowball and get worse,” she said.

Councilor Berkeley Almand-Hunter said that while the landlord, affordable housing and downtown issues in Hallowell need to be addressed, it is a lot to ask the city manager to come up with a solution in one month.

“If you haven’t been involved in municipal government, you might not realize how hard of a job city manager is,” she said. “I think it’s more than a full-time job already, so that’s a lot to put on the city manager.”

Mayor George Lapointe said that some items brought up in the resolution, such as the community raising more than $100,000 to help Slate’s, another iconic Hallowell business, get back on its feet after it burned in 2007, strike him as more community-oriented than municipally oriented. Lapointe suggested prioritizing which actions the city can take and which actions citizens can take in order to make tackling the issue more manageable.

Warren spoke about the importance of fighting to preserve businesses like The Wharf.

“We’re here because we are very fearful,” she said. “We’re here because we’re fearful for losing what we all love about our city, and I want you to all know that it’s much bigger than The Wharf, but it is about The Wharf. Councilor AuCoin used the term, ‘Is The Wharf a canary in the coal mine?’ I worry that that’s the truth.”

She said she has constituents who have lived in the city for years, who are now being forced out and have called her asking for assistance. She said that while she believes in private property rights, the city also has a long history of being creative.

Warren, who served on city council during the Slate’s fire, countered the mayor’s point about Slate’s being community-oriented. She said that when the restaurant burned, she and other councilors stood on the sidewalk and former mayor Barry Timson put his arm around Larson and assured her that the city will make sure that Slate’s stays in Hallowell.

“It was us; it was the city council,” she said. “It was us; it was the citizens of Hallowell. It was us; it was people that are on this call tonight but are from other towns but love the city of Hallowell and want to see it stay funky. We all did many things to save Slate’s.”

Resident Sam Shain said more should be done to address gentrification in the city.

Rachel Merriam lived in an apartment above the Wharf on the 130-138 Water St. property for about seven years and said the new property manager assured her that she would not be evicted from the building since she helped her get to know everyone in the community.

She explained, through tears, that despite this she and nine others were later removed from their apartments.

“All my friends moved to different towns and cities,” said Merriam. “One of my best friends had to go back to Massachusetts to live with his parents because we weren’t afforded enough time to find something else.”

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