Planned sale of Scarborough seafood co-op stirs concern

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SCARBOROUGH — Prospective buyers of the Pine Point Fisherman’s Co-op say it will be business as usual at 96 King St., but some waterfront workers aren’t biting.

Susan Bayley Clough and Vincent Clough, longtime town residents and business owners, have an agreement to buy the wholesale seafood dealer and Rising Tide restaurant from Gary Johnson and Tim Staples. The town has assessed the property at $611,400.

“It’s been 30 years,” Staples said. “It’s just my time.”

The council is expected to vote on the sale at its Feb. 6 meeting. Bayley Clough said she couldn’t say what they’ve offered to pay for the property; the sale isn’t scheduled to close until Feb. 26.

“(The property) was never on the market,” she said. “The owners were really looking for the right buyer … someone who will maintain the working waterfront.”

The couple owns and operates Bayley’s Lobster Pound and the nearby Bait Shed and The Garage BBQ restaurants. They also live a few doors down from the co-op.

“We have a great familiarity with this area,” Bayley Clough said while pitching the sale to the Town Council at a Jan. 16 workshop.

In 1964, Scarborough conveyed property at the Town Landing to the Pine Point Cooperative Association, which later became the Pine Point Fisherman’s Co-op.

The agreement requires the town to consent to any sale of the property and approve any mortgage in excess of $125,000. It also stipulates that only the front and back of the building may be expanded.

The buyers, however, want to increase the mortgage debt limit to $900,000, according to a memo from Town Manager Thomas Hall to the Town Council, which discussed the pending sale Wednesday night.

Bayley Clough said their intention is to use the property in the same manner as it has been historically – as a lobster buying station and restaurant – and expand services to include a buying station for steamers and local aquaculture.

“By approving the sale to us, the council is ensuring that this property will continue to be in the hands of Scarborough residents who care about the environment, the health of the working waterfront and the impression that Pine Point makes on visitors to the area,” Bayley Clough said in a memo to Hall.

But William Hamill, a clammer and member of the town’s Shellfish Conservation Commission, told councilors the pending sale is alarming – despite the popularity of the Bait Shed and The Garage BBQ among town residents – because of what he called an “unpopular rapport with the fishing community.”

Hamill said as the Cloughs’ restaurants have become more popular, they’ve bought less product from local fisherman and now only buy from two of the estimated 25 who operate at Pine Point.

Liam Erickson, of Pine Point Road, echoed Hamill’s concerns, saying in his eight years of clamming he hasn’t known another fisherman, lobsterman or clammer who has been able to sell to Bayley Clough.

“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior,” Erickson said. “… (The Cloughs) haven’t conducted themselves as good neighbors.”

Bayley Clough responded that a lot has changed in the 105 years that Bayley’s Lobster Pound has been in business, including tidal access to the restaurant. Unlike the co-op property, it no longer has “all-tide access,” meaning that at low tide, boats can’t come right up to the storefront.

Further, she said it is in their interest to maintain the working waterfront.

“We understand the working waterfront issues in this area,” Bayley Clough said. “It’s in our benefit to maintain a working waterfront. … We have skin in the game.”

Still, Hamill said in an email to The Forecaster that Bayley Clough will “take care of herself and the business first.”

“Even if she says she’ll continue running the co-op parts of the property for fishermen to sell their stuff and get bait, who knows how important that function is to her with all her restaurant needs,” he said.

Hamill and Travis Turner, of the Coastal Waters and Harbor Advisory Committee, said there are also concerns about increased traffic and the impact of another restaurant on the Pine Point neighborhood.

Bayley Clough said they plan to give the restaurant’s interior a “facelift,” but have no intention to expand, meaning that no additional parking will be required.

In response to concerns about live music and entertainment, Bayley Clough said she can’t imagine the co-op being large enough to accommodate such a use, but if added would need council approval.

She also said they intend to continue to operate a bait cooler. The co-op, Turner said, is the last one in Pine Point and critical to the working waterfront.

Bayley Clough said she did not believe her restaurants are “unpopular” with the fishing community and that Hamill’s and Turner’s opposition represents a “small, vocal minority.”

Hamill, however, said many waterfront workers did not want to share their concerns out of fear of repercussions and potential loss of business if the sale is approved.

Councilors echoed many of the public’s concerns Wednesday night, especially a need to ensure access to the waterfront for workers in perpetuity.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

The pending sale of the Pine Point Fisherman’s Co-op and Rising Tide restaurant, behind the municipal pier that was rebuilt in 2015, is generating concern among commercial fishermen in Scarborough.

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