2017-06-09 / Community

New life on tap for South Portland’s Griffin Club property

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — Just days after South Portland watering hole The Griffin Club closed its doors for good, the future of the building uncertain, new owners have emerged promising to restore the property.

The building sold June 5 for $620,000 to P&G Developers LLC, a company owned by Cape Elizabeth residents Penny Prior and Ginger Cote.

“We’re thrilled to own the Griffin Club property and delighted to be joining the vibrant community that lives and works in Knightville,” said Cote, in a press release issued Monday. “Our plans aren’t firm yet, but we know food and music will be part of whatever we do.”

According to a press release issued by Eric Flynn of Excellence Realty, which brokered the sale, Cote is a long-time Portland area drummer “with deep roots in the local music scene.” A Maine native, she began playing the drums at age 6, turned pro by age 18, and has since spent years touring the U.S. and overseas with high-profile acts including Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, as well as Portland’s Cyd Bullens and Darien Brahms.

Prior was raised outside Washington, D.C., and transitioned into teaching after many years building websites for major media brands. She has been an elementary and technology teacher for the past decade.

“The Griffin Club has long been an institution in South Portland. It was a true community space, and we aim to carry that tradition forward,” she said.

“In the coming weeks our team will evaluate all of the options,” Cote said, citing a preference to renovate the existing 4,864-square-foot building, listed in the city database as constructed in 1900 and assessed, with its 0.11-acre lot, at $305,900

“We look forward to talking with the city of South Portland and others in the community about our ideas,” Cote said.

The Griffin Club, at 60 Ocean St., was established in 1973 by Eddie Griffin, who was something of a local legend, based on his career as a boxing promoter and bar owner reported to be proud of his Irish heritage.

His wife Marjorie continued to run the bar after Griffin died in 1993 at age 65, but sold the business in 2008 to Scott Parker, a longtime employee. She then passed the building on to her son, Byron Castro of Cape Elizabeth, before she died in 2011.

Parker, a former marine who logged 20 years at Griffin Club taps before buying the business, closed the doors on Wednesday. Parker has said he hopes to reopen elsewhere in the city, if not in Knightville.

Parker had known since February that the building was for sale.

The building was initially listed for $599,000 with broker Tom Landry and Portland-based Benchmark Residential and Investment Real Estate. A listing on commercialsearch.com showed a five-story mixed-use building in place of the current two-story wooden structure, and described the building as the “Cross Property.”

Castro and his wife have consistently rebuffed all media inquiries about the property. However, city planner Tex Haeuser reported first being approached by the Castros regarding development potential as long as six months ago. A sale was rumored to be in the works to go along with the “Cross Property” design, but last week Assistant City Manager Josh Reny said he heard that deal fell through and the building was no longer under contract.

Although South Portland Housing Authority is pushing for a Knightville zoning change that will allow it to build a five-story, 48-unit building at 51 Ocean St., Reny said the original Griffin Club deal was believed to have broken down over the current zoning, which limits downtown development to 50 feet in height and 24 living units per acre, with a need for 1.5 parking space per unit.

Landry declined comment on the pre- P&G development plan, while Flynn confirmed his clients are not the same buyers who floated plans to replace the Griffin Club with the “Cross Property.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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