RAYMOND – With demand for expert woodworking skills slowed with the sluggish economy, Raymond resident Jeff Pomeroy last fall thought outside the box, and after nine months working with town and state agencies, his persistence has paid off.

Next week, with his 16-year-old daughter Grace working by his side, the Egypt Road resident is set to open The Black Ghost Cafe?, a walk-up and boat-through restaurant perched at the end of a 116-foot-long dock with railing off Raymond Beach.

It will be the only restaurant directly accessible by boat on Sebago Lake, and maybe Maine, Pomeroy said. Landlubbers will also be able to access the restaurant via a dock that will be located at the far-end of the parking lot, furthest from the Raymond Boat Ramp dock. Swimmers and beach-goers will be allowed between the two docks although rope-lines will prevent access to both docks.

In exchange for opening the restaurant – which will serve steamed lobsters, crabmeat rolls, fried seafood, hamburgers and hotdogs – Pomeroy has agreed to remove trash from the beach, which town officials closed last summer in the wake of high bacteria counts in the shallow water.

Pomeroy is excited about his enterprise and believes he will be successful. Others in town do, too.

“I believe it will be a draw for the town of Raymond,” said Selectman Michael Reynolds. “It’s a unique business. People are going to be writing about it, talking about it, coming to see what it’s all about. It’s going to generate a lot of conversation because it’s such a unique idea.”

Reynolds has heard a mix of reactions from his constituents, everything from support to skepticism. Some of the questions revolve around pollution, namely trash and wastewater that the restaurant could generate.

Pomeroy said he has a system in place for both. He’s spent the last three weeks visiting the beach each morning and picking up trash. He joked, “It’s already part of my daily routine, I like it actually. And at this point I’m picking up 10-year-old cigarette butts, it’s so clean down there.”

Concerning wastewater, Pomeroy said he has installed two 25-gallon collection barrels on the 10-by-20-foot floating restaurant that will collect wastewater from sinks. He’ll be able to wheel those barrels down the dock to a trailer he’ll have in the parking lot. Using a mechanical pump, he’ll siphon the wastewater into a tank on the trailer and haul the trailer to his home on Egypt Road, where he’ll dispose of the gray water in his septic system.

‘Black Ghost’

While he’s spent much of his life around the water and commercially fished out of Portland for lobster and swordfish, The Black Ghost Cafe? is Pomeroy’s first foray into the food-service industry.

“I’m not a restaurateur. But I grew up on Sebago Lake. My grandparents had a place on Mineral Spring Road (in Windham), so I’ve been on Sebago Lake and love Sebago Lake and I know if there’s a lake in the state of Maine that I can make a go of this business, Sebago Lake is definitely the one,” Pomeroy said. “Route 302 is one of the busiest roads and Sebago Lake one of the busiest lakes. And I’ll be right between the two.”

The name of the restaurant, The Black Ghost Cafe?, is fitting for the area since it is named for a fly-fishing tie created by a Sebago Lake fisherman in 1927, Pomeroy said. Getting even more specific, the avid fisherman said the “Black Ghost” is a streamer fly used for trolling, which is a popular technique on the large lake.

“The whole thing is going to be themed after fly-fishing and the history of fly fishing,” Pomeroy said. “We’re going to sell flies, and possibly in the future we’ll have a largest togue contest. I’ve got a lot of ideas.”

Pomeroy has invested just under $30,000 on the dock and floating restaurant, which resembles a houseboat. Much of the ash wood used in the boat, including a curved ceiling, came from a lot in back of Pomeroy’s Egypt Road home. He cut down the wood himself. “It’s going to be gorgeous,” he said.

It’s also going to be stable, he added. Using massive pontoons, Pomeroy said he could place 14 tons on the boat before the contraption would sink. And if it did sink, the vessel would hit ground about 3 to 4 feet down since Jordan Bay is shallow for hundreds of yards off Raymond Beach.

“A lot of people are worried about waves,” Pomeroy said. “This thing isn’t going to move diddly.”

Aiding him the last few weeks in the construction of the docks and restaurant have been Dave Donnelly of Donnelly’s HVAC, based in Windham; all-around helper Tom Schaeffer; and Earl Spaulding of Earl’s Custom Canvas, who has fashioned the canopy for the 24-foot-long T-section at the end of the dock fronting the shore-side of the restaurant. Also, helping Pomeroy with procuring kitchen supplies and equipment has been Drew Taylor, owner of Kingsley Pines Camp in Raymond.

“Just about everything is being bought locally,” Pomeroy added.

Final hoops

The enterprise, which received the blessing of the Portland Water District and no blowback from the Raymond Waterways Protective Association, two agencies concerned for Sebago Lake water quality, is seen as a minor miracle by Pomeroy, who believes economic realities and possibly state politics may have helped opened the door to a venture that initially raised some eyebrows.

“This would never would have happened if there was enough money to clean the beach all the time,” Pomeroy said. “This definitely proves that the town of Raymond is open for business. And the state, I think in this political climate and the way things are now, there were a lot of state agencies involved – Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Protection – everybody worked with me. Yes, there were definitely some hoops, but I jumped through them the way they wanted me to jump through them, and this is a good thing for the state of Maine and town of Raymond.”

Charley Leavitt, a Raymond selectman who posited the idea of requesting proposals from private interests after the town suddenly closed the beach last summer after high fecal coliform bacteria levels were reported by the Portland Water District, said the “public-private partnership” would be a benefit to both Pomeroy and the region.

“The issue back then was one of two options. We either keep it closed or we hire more people (to police the beach). And I, for one, thought we should give the private sector a chance. And here we are. I’m absolutely excited for Mr. Pomeroy and I think this is a good example of, if you don’t stand in the private sector’s way, you can see positive results.”

While town officials are enthusiastic, they have an escape clause built into the agreement. If Pomeroy doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain regarding keeping the beach clean, his five-year lease can be cut short.

“If I don’t keep up to the standards they have put in place, they can tell me to get out at any time,” Pomeroy said. “But I think when people come down and see it for themselves, they’re going to say, wow, this is nice. They’ll see this is a professional operation and not just some fly-by-night operation.”

After jumping through hoops with the town and state, owner, designer, builder and cook Jeff Pomeroy, of Raymond, will open The Black Ghost Café off Raymond Beach after a health inspection scheduled for next week. (Photo by Rich Obrey)

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