September 15, 2012

City closes three waterfront businesses

Citing health code violations including ‘rat droppings’ and ‘TONS of flies all over the food,’ officials shut down the Porthole restaurant and two other sites owned by Oliver Keithly.

By Randy Billings
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

The Porthole restaurant, the Comedy Connection and Harbour’s Edge were shut down Thursday afternoon by the Portland health inspector, who cited numerous violations.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Employees of The Porthole on Custom House Wharf wait outside the building Friday afternoon after the restaurant, along with the Comedy Connection and Harbour’s Edge, were shut down because of numerous health code violations. Business owner Oliver Keithly did not respond to calls for comment Friday, and employees at the Porthole said he was not inside.

Additional Photos Below

Related Documents

Sept. 13, 2012, health inspector's report
Imminent Health Hazard document – notice to close immediately
Law firm bill for event that resulted in alleged food poisoning
Tip alerting health inspector to violations

A section of her report on Harbour's Edge noted "excessive violations -- many repeat, not corrected from last (Imminent Health Hazard.)"

She also discovered a bar sink and a floor drain that lead directly into Portland Harbor, rather than the city's sewer system.

Stuart Rose, who works in the wastewater compliance division of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said he learned of the violations Thursday.

"I don't have any new details," Rose said Friday. "This is the beginning of (the) investigation."

Gardner said the Porthole's management has called in a pest control specialist to deal with the rats and flies. Several issues still must be addressed, including general cleaning and sealing up areas that lead outdoors.

Owners of nearby businesses said they have not had a problem with rats. They said they do regular pest control.

"It's a day-to-day routine," said Jennifer Fox, co-owner of Andy's Old Port Pub on Commercial Street. "You have to stay on top of it."

Mark Cutter, who owns Port Bean on Commercial Street, said he hires Orkin pest control to inspect his cafe and its storage area every two weeks.

"It's only $60, every two weeks," he said. "I want to make sure we don't have issues."

According to city records, the Porthole was inspected seven times from July 6, 2007, to May, 21, 2008, and was out of compliance with codes governing plumbing, hand-washing stations, refuse and garbage disposal, and overall cleanliness.

Each inspection noted the need for a follow-up inspection to ensure that plumbing issues were fixed. But the city did not provide any inspection records from between 2008 and this year.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, Clegg said a follow-up inspection was done in April 2009 and scored a 96.

No one on the staff was available at that hour to provide the follow-up report, she said.

Clegg said the Porthole was the third restaurant in Portland to be shut down for health code violations in the last year. La Bodega and Buffalo Wings-N-Things were closed, but Clegg could not provide any information about the nature of the violations or say how long the restaurants were closed.

Gardner said restaurants are closed when three or more critical violations are found. Numerous noncritical or repeat violations can also lead to closure, he said.

On Friday, Denise Lachance, 53, of Ottawa, Canada, was upset that she couldn't experience the Porthole. She first tried to eat there 15 years ago, and it was closed then. She took photos of the restaurant, because it appeared to cater to fishermen, and made paintings of it.

This time, she had made her way up from Cape Cod eating seafood, hoping it would culminate Friday at the Porthole.

"You don't know my frustration!" said Lachance, standing several feet from a black rodent trap. "I'm crushed."

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: @randybillings

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

A sign on the Porthole restaurant says it was “closed due to water issues” Friday. Employees later replaced the sign with one that read: “Closed, sorry for the inconvenience.”

click image to enlarge

A man works on a door on the back of Harbour's Edge on Custom House Wharf on Friday.

click image to enlarge

What appears to be a rat trap is seen outside the Comedy Connection on Friday after it was shut down by the Portland health inspector.

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)