September 17, 2012

Before rat infestation, Porthole violations went unchecked, reports show

City inspectors found problems from 2007 to 2009 but failed to follow up.

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

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The Porthole Restaurant, the Comedy Connection and Harbour's Edge, all on Custom House Wharf, in Portland were shut down Thursday for health violations, then cleared to reopen Saturday.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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The kitchen had been cleaned thoroughly and the restaurant remained closed to the public, Gardner said. The meal was served aboard the Casablanca harbor tour boat, which docks beside the Porthole and is where the couple got married.

Keithly said he told the couple why the banquet hall was closed.

Gardner said Keithly and the city acted quickly to reopen the Porthole and get its employees back to work.

"It's really about having a pest-control protocol in place and staying on top of it," Gardner said. "The owner was motivated and we were motivated. We didn't want to see anyone's livelihood put at risk and we need to make sure the public's health is protected."

Michael Peaslee, technical services manager at Modern Pest Control in Brunswick, said it's possible to address a rodent infestation adequately in a couple of days and he's confident that a health inspector would err on the side of caution.

"Some of the things that led to the shutdown may not have been a priority before they became public," Peaslee said. "Now, they have to act. It's so situational, but it could be done in a couple of days with the right resources. I don't think the health inspector would be letting that business open back up if they hadn't taken care of things."

Gardner showed his confidence in what Keithly has done so far by having lunch at the Porthole on Sunday -- a chicken pesto sandwich that he said was "very good."

The restaurant had a healthy lunch crowd Monday, with several tables filled indoors and on the deck. Patrons said they enjoyed their meals.

Patti and Gary Field of Lompoc, Calif., said their lobster rolls were the best they had ever had and they liked the Porthole's casual atmosphere.

They hadn't heard about the health code violations.

Neither had Lauren and Mary Connolly of Portland, who shared clam chowder, fish and chips and salad. Their two kids had chicken fingers.

"It was great," Lauren Connolly said, and they saw "no critters."

Enjoying the view from the Porthole's deck was A.J. Deraspe, a former Portland resident who now lives and works in Los Angeles as a personal chef, nutritionist and food consultant. Deraspe and several friends had heard about the health code violations but were undeterred.

"It's the Porthole," Deraspe said. "Anything with that name, you shouldn't expect white linen, fancy food and an elitist attitude. It's perfect Old Port, seaside comfort food. And the Bloody Marys are great."

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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