PORTLAND – It would appear that a new strip club is moving into the Old Port. It says so right there on page 2 in this week’s Portland Phoenix. Mark’s Place is opening at 116 Fore St., and the ad features a stripper in silhouette, pole-dancing.
But owner Mark Deane — who on Monday was granted entertainment and class A lounge licenses by the City Council — insists the ad was the result of a misunderstanding.
“I swear to God to you,” he says. “There is no dancing.”
Deane said he would never consider opening a strip club in the Old Port because city zoning prohibits it. Deane should know because he once owned Mark’s Showplace, which gained a monopoly on topless dancing in 1997 when the City Council banned nude entertainment citywide, but allowed it to continue at 200 Riverside St. Mark’s Showplace is now called PT’s Showclub.
The ad in the Phoenix looks just like the ads that used to run in local publications for Mark’s Showplace.
Deane said the ad was the brainchild of beer salesman Joe Salisbury, who showed him a mock-up of the ads last Friday. Deane said he jokingly approved the idea, but was only kidding. He said Salisbury mistakenly thought he was serious.
Salisbury said in an interview that he believed Dean understood the ad was a practical joke designed to get people talking.
“It’s a publicity stunt,” Salisbury said. “It’s an attention grabber.”
Deane was in the bar Thursday waiting for city inspectors, and worrying that maybe the ad was going to get the attention of somebody in City Hall.
“I’m thinking maybe I should call Mayor Brennan,” he said.
He later decided to call his lawyer and warn him that he might be getting a call from the city’s legal staff. No such call came Thursday.
City Councilor Ed Suslovic, who chairs the council’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee, said he’s not too worried about the ad.
“We’ve got to wait and see how they manage their place,” he said. “They are not the first nightclub in the Old Port to use advertising to draw attention to themselves.”
The location has been a trouble spot for the city. The Cactus Club, which occupied the same address, lost its liquor license in 2011 because of over-serving alcohol and fighting that had taken place there.
Scantily clad women often danced on the Cactus Club bar for tips. Poles that the women used for dancing are still installed on top of the bar.
Deane said he hopes to open in time for the Old Port festival Sunday.
Deane said he wants patrons to dance, but they’ll have to keep their clothes on.
Deane, 58, opened Mark’s Showplace in 1991, sold it about 10 years ago and opened New Hampshire’s only strip club, also called Mark’s Showplace, in Bedford. He sold that club in 2009 after his wife and business partner, Cindie Deane, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Deane, who lives in Portland, said he hasn’t worked for three years as he grieved for his wife.
“I want to get back again,” he said. “I was talking to my dog more than people. It’s about time I get out in the real world.”
He said he’ll be at the bar as much as possible.
“It will be totally hands-on,” he said. “When you are at the bar, you will see me. That’s how I believe you will become successful in the bar industry. You have to be there.”
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: