Pat’s Pizza in the Old Port on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Portland city councilors voted unanimously Wednesday to renew the liquor license for Pat’s Pizza in the Old Port despite recommendations from staff and police to not do so because of the high number of police calls to the location.

The decision came after a lengthy hearing in which a city attorney and police lieutenant presented a case for not renewing the restaurant’s liquor license based on nearly two dozen calls for service over a 10-month period.

Business owner Mike Lizotte, meanwhile, said he’s already made changes and hired a new manager to mitigate the problems.

“At the end of the day I’m just a small-business owner trying to support myself and my family,” Lizotte said. “I’m trying to do the right thing not just for myself but for my neighbors. When things happen I’ll adapt and overcome.”

Wednesday’s hearing, in which the council acted in a quasi-judicial manner to determine the outcome of the license, was an unusual case. The last time the police department recommended the council not renew a liquor license was for Sangillo’s Tavern in 2014.

“It’s not something we do often,” said Lt. Eric Nevins, who represented the Portland Police Department before the council Wednesday night.


Nevins presented a report to the council in which he said there were 22 calls for service between Dec. 16, 2021, and Oct. 31, 2022, at Pat’s Pizza at 30 Market St. They included four assaults; nine fights; four noise complaints; two threats, including one with a gun; one report of shots fired; and one report of staff selling narcotics.

Nevins also included a lengthier list of reports made to police over the same time frame for 30 Market St., although all couldn’t definitively be linked to Pat’s Pizza.

The restaurant was cited in 2022 for not being able to produce a valid liquor license on the premises and was issued a summons for violation of the city’s entertainment license ordinance for playing loud music that was audible outside the restaurant.

In one case reported to police, a person was taken to the hospital after allegedly being assaulted by a bouncer. In another case, 30 people were fighting in the street and in others police responded to a report of a woman passed out in the bathroom from a suspected drug overdose and a man who punched a hole in a bathroom wall.

The majority of calls took place at closing hours and the people involved were intoxicated, said Nevins, who said he noticed a change in the number of reports being made after Lizotte took over ownership of Pat’s in 2019. The restaurant is part of a chain with locations around the state, though they don’t all share the same ownership.

“Something changed in the business model in the last couple of years,” Nevins said. “It seems like it’s gone from being a family restaurant like other Pat’s Pizza franchises to now it’s attempting to be more of a night club environment.”



Lizotte said the restaurant, which has a capacity of about 175 people, has been very busy and “when you become busy there are problems.” He said he was made aware of noise complaints by his landlord already and as a result took steps last fall to try and improve the atmosphere and change the clientele.

He bought out a former business partner and hired a new general manager, Mike White, who has taken over security operations. And he temporarily closed the third floor of the restaurant and only recently reopened it.

“The last four to five months we’ve been quiet as a mouse because we’re not busy,” Lizotte said. Nevins said he also has noticed calls go down the last few months, though the data presented to the council Wednesday only went through October.

Councilors appeared satisfied with the steps Lizotte has taken since the fall to clean up the restaurant and raised questions about whether the documented problems could be placed solely on Pat’s when the restaurant is surrounded by a number of bars.

“It’s tough,” Councilor Victoria Pelletier said. “If someone is running in after having too much to drink in the Old Port and punching a hole in the wall, I don’t know if that’s entirely Pat’s Pizza’s fault.”

But councilors also said they will be keeping a close eye on the restaurant’s operations over the next year.

“I want to hear there’s engagement with the police department and there’s a strategy to manage that environment,” Councilor Mark Dion told Lizotte. “There’s a part of me that doesn’t feel good about looking at their work and turning away from what could be an appropriate sanction for you.”

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