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May 24, 2019

Ri Ra owner partnering with 82 Hanover developer on BBQ restaurant, bar

Photo / Maureen Milliken The owner of Ri Ra Irish pub in Portland plans to open a barbecue restaurant and bar in the former Portland Public Works Dept. building under renovation by Tom Watson, of Port Properties Management.

The owner of Ri Ra Irish pub on Commercial Street is partnering with developer Tom Watson for a barbecue restaurant and bar at 82 Hanover St., in the West Bayside neighborhood of Portland.

Wilson County Barbecue will serve North Carolina-style barbecue with an extensive beverage selection, Watson told Mainebiz. The restaurant has signed a long-term lease with options for at least 20 years, he said.

The restaurant will include about 5,600 square feet of indoor space and 2,000 square feet of patio space in the southwest corner of the building. Watson said that 50% of the building is leased, with letters of intent for another 30%.

Watson, of Port Property Management, bought the 42,000-square-foot warehouse at 82 Hanover St. in August.

Watson also collaborated with Ri Ra's owners, Ciaran Sheehan and David Kelly, when he owned the Maine Wharf. Ri Ra was the second business to commit to the wharf renovation in 2000, after Flatbread, Watson said.

"We did our best business negotiations with pint in hand," Watson told Mainebiz. "Lots of respect and mutual friendship."

On Wednesday night, he told an audience at an event that looked at development of West Bayside that he was thrilled when Sheehan called him up and said, "Let's get the team back together," for the 82 Hanover St. project.

Whole Hog LLC, a subsidiary of the Ri Ra Group of Companies, got approval from the City Council in July to open a restaurant with outdoor dining at 480 Congress St., at the corner of Congress and Central street, next to Monument Square. That project is no longer going forward, according to Portland Food Map's restaurant real estate listings. Sheehan couldn't immediately be reached for comment Friday morning. 

Sheehan and Kelly started the Ri Ra chain in North Carolina in 1997, and the Portland pub is one of eight pubs in the chain, the others being in Portsmouth, N.H.; Burlington, Vt.; Washington, D.C.; Atlantic City, N.J.; Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Watson also bought 44 Hanover St. earlier this year. Both buildings are former Portland Public Works Dept. buildings.

Besides the restaurant, he told Mainebiz in February that a spin cycling business and a country rock bar have also signed leases. Port Property will also move its office from 104 Grant St. into the building.

Investment in the building will be close to $8 million, including the purchase price of $2.4 million, Watson said. 

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