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'Naked Shakespeare' by any other name doesn't offend; Portland councilors OK bar's license, order review of zoning ordinance

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'Naked Shakespeare' by any other name doesn't offend; Portland councilors OK bar's license, order review of zoning ordinance

PORTLAND — The city will re-examine zoning that prohibits bars and restaurants from providing entertainment, after an Old Port bar was accused of violating the law by allowing readings of Shakespeare.

The City Council on Monday night voted to renew a liquor license for the Wine Bar, a long-time establishment on Wharf Street. The bar's request to be allowed to provide entertainment, however, was not considered.

City code prohibits bars or restaurants from having entertainment licenses if another bar or restaurant within 100 feet already has an entertainment license. The Wine Bar is within 100 feet of several establishments with entertainment licenses. The ordinance does not allow the City Council to grant exemptions, either.

Wine Bar owner Scott Berry said his business allows Acorn Productions, a local theater company, to rehearse at the bar from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., seven or eight nights a year. The entertainment is billed as "Naked Shakespeare," because there are no costumes or sets. 

Berry said the theater group has been gathering at the Wine Bar in the fall for four years. He said he received a letter from the city this spring that said the bar was violating city code because it did not have an entertainment license.

"Shakespeare, although very entertaining, we did not consider it that," Berry said.

Councilors referred the ordinance to the Public Safety Committee and the Planning Board for review. 

"It's probably time for us to look at this matter again," Councilor David Marshall said. "I don't think the council's intent at the time was to go after Shakespeare."

The council approved the 100-foot rule three years ago, in an attempt to control downtown crowds and noise.

Wind study approved

The City Council Monday also approved allowing temporary wind anemometers to be installed. The anemometers are tall metal towers with devices attached to measure wind speed and direction. The wind study towers do not have rotors or blades.

The School Department has been eyeing studying wind at the East End Community School, and Peaks Island proponents want to install a temporary tower, too.

Sam Saltonstall, of the Peaks Wind Group, has said the islanders are ready to apply to install the tower, and hope to get it up and running by November.

It is unclear when a tower could be erected at the East End school. The project had been in the running to receive free wind testing equipment from Efficiency Maine, but the schools backed out of the 2009 cycle because the city had not approved the zoning change to allow for the temporary study equipment.

Under the new zoning amendment, the towers would have to be removed within two years of installation. City planners are working on a more comprehensive wind power ordinance to address permanent structures.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net