For a problem that’s solved, the bar scene around the Oak Park apartments in Lewiston remains unsolvable.

About two years ago, the mostly elderly residents of the apartments complained about drunken revelry occurring in the wee hours outside their building, which was between popular nightspots Blue Elephant and Club Adrenaline.

Well, popular with patrons anyway. Neither establishment was popular with the police or City Council, which eventually had enough of complaints and misbehavior and refused to renew their liquor licenses. Without the booze, both places eventually shut down.

So problem solved, right? Not quite. City planners have been wrangling to find a permanent answer to relations between bars and Oak Park residents. The only one that’s worked, so far, is one-or-the-other.

Which, for Lewiston, is the worst solution. The city can neither have downtown businesses chased away, nor can it have residents feeling harassed from what’s outside their windows. An equitable solution has been elusive.

This week, the city’s Planning Board correctly rejected re-zoning a four-block radius around Oak Park to prohibit “drinking places.” Planners saw this as spot zoning, and unfair to potential and existing downtown establishments.

As this four-block radius is home to three establishments in which Lewiston should be proud: The Maple Room, Fuel and Guthries. All have been excellent neighbors, as well as bringing investment to the city.

We need more like them. A prohibition would have been a regrettable deterrent.

Our sense is more regulation isn’t the answer. Bans on business aren’t in Lewiston’s best interest. Neither are rowdy crowds, but they seem more connected to specific establishments, not a proximity to Oak Park.

It’s time to start at the beginning; instead of considering ways of telling businesses where they shouldn’t go, the city should reconsider where they should.

This starts by revisiting a flawed ordinance on density of bars in Lewiston, which is derived from the city busting up the strip of nightspots on lower Lisbon Street in the late 1980s. Lewiston is a different city now.

With the Island Point development back on track, which promises startling changes to downtown, an ordinance demanding a football field between the front doors of drinking establishments seems quite counterproductive.

Under these rules, bars are dotting the city haphazardly, without concentration. Some wonder why Lewiston cannot foment an Old Port-like district in Portland – this ordinance is one primary reason.

A review is overdue, both to address the ordinance’s shortcomings, and as the proper springboard to resolving the impasse among the city, Oak Park and local business, as well as good preparation for future development.

Lewiston is big enough for all of them.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.