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Fire Damage Extensive to Old Port Restaurants; Landlord Ignored Fire Code Violations

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The various local media reports on yesterday morning's Old Port fire show that the effects of the damage are significant, and could have possibly been avoided had landlord Joseph Soley not ignored multiple fire safety violations that he'd been ordered to correct at the 420 Fore Street building and the building he owns next to it. The fire forced the closure of a number of businesses, including Street and Co., Dancing Elephant II, Joe's New York Pizza, East End Cupcakes and Mark's Place, and also caused damage at the upcoming Central Provisions.

According to the Press Herald, Soley was cited in April and May by the city for 11 code violations, "including missing smoke detectors, open wiring and an inadequate number of ways to get out of the building," and given 32 days to correct them. He did not. Soley is a real estate mogul, art collector and notorious tightwad with a net worth in the tens of millions at last check. He's butted heads with the city before and was once ordered to pay $1 million in punitive damages stemming from a lawsuit brought by the former tenants of one of his condemned Exchange Street properties.

One question that arises is how Soley's failure to address the code violations will affect his insurance coverage. Will he be forced to dip into his own deep pockets to cover repairs? Here's a survey of the damage:

· Street and Co. will close for at least four days and must discard its entire stock of food and wine, according to Carol McCracken's Munjoy Hill News blog. The restaurant has a impressive wine list.

· Joe Kelley of Joe's New York Pizza told The Forecaster, "It's a full loss of beer, liquor, food – everything that was in coolers has to be thrown out because the electricity was cut." He said the building has a "horrible smoke and chemical smell" and that it will be days or weeks before he can reopen. "I won't reopen until it doesn't smell like death in there," he told the paper.

· Chris Gould, who hopes to open Central Provisions at 414 Fore Street later this year, tweeted this:


He also told The Forecaster that the apartments he owns above the restaurant space suffered "pretty good smoke damage inside."

· The Portland Daily Sun had the following statement from city communications director Nicole Clegg: "The cause of the fire is being investigated by the fire department and the insurance company. We have ruled out anything suspicious."
· Portland Had Cited Owner of Building Before Old Port Fire [PPH]
· Contentious Soley Back in Spotlight, Defiant as Ever [PPH]
· Three Alarm Fire on Fore Street Shuts Down Powerless Block Indefinitely [Munjoy Hill News]
· Business Owners, Residents Take Stock After 3-alarm Fire in Portland's Old Port [Forecaster]
· Old Port Fire Spurs State Response for Displaced Employees [PDS]
[Photo: The Bar of Chocolate/Facebook]

Street and Co.

33 Wharf Street, Portland, ME 04101 207-775-0887

420 Fore Street

420 Fore Street, Portland, ME, 04102