Brunswick asks new bar to clarify ownership

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BRUNSWICK — The town has asked the proprietors of a new bar on Maine Street to clarify their management agreement, following discrepancies that have clouded an embattled Portland club owner’s involvement. 

Town Manager Gary Brown said last week that Joseph Cyr and Thomas Manning have been asked to produce a corporate agreement outlining the management of O’Shea’s Irish Restaurant & Cantina, a new bar planning to open at 94 Maine St.

The bar has already successfully received approval for liquor and amusement licenses from the Town Council, but not before Brown raised questions about Manning’s involvement.

Manning, a Falmouth resident, is attempting to appeal Portland’s revocation of the Cactus Club’s liquor license, a battle that has reached Maine Supreme Judicial Court. 

The Portland City Council’s decision last year to pull Manning’s Cactus Club license was preceded by brushes with police at his former establishments, including the club Metropolis on Forest Avenue, where agents seized an assortment of illegal drugs during a 1999 raid. In 2007, the City Council revoked his liquor license for Digger’s/Liquid Blue on Fore Street.

During the Town Council’s June 7 public hearing for the live entertainment license, Brown asked Cyr about Manning’s role at O’Shea’s. Cyr told the council that Manning was an investment partner only, and that Cyr would be managing O’Shea’s.

According to the live entertainment application, Manning will own 70 percent of O’Shea’s. However, when asked by a reporter, Cyr said he was the majority owner, not Manning. 

State incorporation documents for American Restaurant Association LLC, the parent company for O’Shea’s and a similarly named establishment in Auburn, show Manning as the sole owner. Cyr is not listed.

Brown’s inquiry into those discrepancies came at the advice of the town’s attorney. Brown cautioned against viewing the request for a management agreement as an indication that the town would attempt to revoke O’Shea’s permits.

“We’re looking at (the town’s recourse) right now,” Brown said. “But without seeing (O’Shea’s management agreement), it’s premature to say what we would or would not do.”

Brown told the council Monday that the attorney advised the town to keep a close eye on the establishment.

Chairwoman Joanne King said she hadn’t been approached by other councilors about the issue. From her standpoint, she said, the council has already approved the license and needs to give Cyr and Manning a chance to prove they’ll run a business reflective of the community’s values.

Concerns about Manning’s plans to open a bar in Brunswick center on his high-profile troubles in Portland, where he has twice lost liquor licenses and is slated to lose a third.

The Cactus Club license revocation was linked to incident reports from the Portland Police Department linking the bar to rowdy behavior in the Old Port.

The most recent incident report, as well as allegations of over-serving and serving minors, has been refuted by Manning’s attorney, David Turesky, who said most of the calls couldn’t be linked to the Cactus Club because they occurred outside of the establishment near a cluster of watering holes.

The Cactus Club touts a “Mexican, southern theme,” and at one point added scantily-clad female dancers to dance on the bar for tips. Cactus Club has also been the target of several underage drinking stings by police.

Manning’s Cactus Club troubles were preceded by brushes with police at his former establishments, Metropolis on Forest Avenue and Digger’s/Liquid Blue on Fore Street.

In 2007, Manning pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct following his involvement in a fight with a man outside Manning’s Digger’s/Liquid Blue club on Fore Street.

The City Council eventually pulled the liquor license for Digger’s, a decision Manning appealed but ultimately lost.

Cyr told a reporter that he doesn’t have any involvement in the operation of the Cactus Club. He sought to distance himself from Manning, saying in a recent interview, “I don’t want his stuff drug into my business. It has absolutely nothing to do with my business, what he does.”

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or