PORTLAND – A proposal for the city to grant itself a liquor license to operate a bar and restaurant at the Riverside Golf Course has some city officials questioning whether the licenses to sell alcohol at Merrill Auditorium and the Portland Expo are legal.

The council took up the license application Monday, but put off action until May 2 because of the questions that were raised.

The application was filled out by Mary McCarthy, head of the Barron Center’s food service operation, who listed herself as the “officer” of the “corporation” seeking the license.

The Barron Center will provide the food for the restaurant, as it does for the Clocktower Cafe in the basement of City Hall.

But Steven Scharf, a Portland resident who frequently questions the council’s actions, said the councilors themselves are considered the “officers” and should be subject to the same background checks as the head of any company that operates a bar.

The city’s lawyer, Gary Wood, agreed at Monday’s meeting, and was asked by councilors to research the question further.

Mayor Nicholas Mavodones pointed out that the license applications for the Expo and Merrill Auditorium probably listed city employees as officers, and so may not be legal.

Scharf said he raised the issue because he opposes the city’s being in the restaurant business, let alone operating a bar. The city’s application to itself for a license also is troubling, he said.

Mavodones said Tuesday that he had expected policy questions to dominate Monday’s discussion, not technicalities about the application. In fact, Councilor Jill Duson said she will vote against the license because she doesn’t think city employees should be serving alcohol.

The city decided to run the restaurant after it found the proposals from private operators inadequate. Mavodones said that have been may be due to the council’s Finance Committee saying it intended to examine the golf course operation later this spring, and consider recommending selling the course or bringing in a company to operate it.

“Ideally … there would be a lot of interest in managing the restaurant” among private companies, Mavodones said, but the uncertainty over the course’s future “probably dampened people’s interest.”

In the meantime, uncertainty over the license means at least a delay in the restaurant’s opening, he said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen out there for the season, and I think the folks who frequent Riverside will be very concerned about that,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]