Port O? Call to be demolished for courthouse

By Michael McFall, Staff Writer

Jeremiah Kephart has been to his fair share of clubs and bars over the years, but he’s going to miss Port O’ Call most of all.

Kephart, a junior in art, held signs outside the Irish pub Wednesday night with other demonstrators to show his support for Port O’ Call. The venue is set to be demolished to make way for the expansion of a federal courthouse.

The federal government used eminent domain to claim the Shubrick building that houses Port O’ Call and several stories of apartments. U.S. District Judge William Downes issued an order Jan. 12 mandating that the pub’s 90 employees and the 20 tenants living upstairs vacate by March 15, when demolition will begin to expand the Frank E. Moss U. S. Courthouse onto the land.

“There’s nothing we can do. It sucks,” said Port O’ Call manager Deno Dakis.

Kent Knowley, who co-owns the building and the company with his wife Janette, said that the pub’s privately hired appraisers valued the property around $9 to $12 million, but the federal government is only paying them $5.4 million.

The owners are supposed to use the money to relocate to a similar building, but Knowley said there is no building on the market that matches the size of Port O’ Call, which can hold a maximum of 2,000 patrons.

After the relocation, he expects the new pub to only be able to serve 500 to 600 people.

The pub owners intend to dispute the government’s compensation and get paid in full for their loss, Knowley said.

The remaining tenants above the pub will have their own battles to face.

“See there? That window? That’s where we live,” said waitress Michelle Pearse, pointing at a pair of second-floor windows. Pearse won’t be receiving compensation because she moved into the building within 90 days of the federal eviction notice. She said isn’t worried about herself so much as she’s worried about her neighbor.

Bob Snider, a World War II veteran with severe emphysema, lives alone in his apartment, Pearse said. Knowley only charges Snider $200 a month for rent because he only makes $700 a month. The owners and staff check up on him everyday, Pearse said.

Every morning, Snider comes downstairs for a cup of coffee, on the house. He’s receiving a few thousand dollars compensation for having lived in the building for 26 years, but will have to move into a home and away from friends and surrogate family that he’ll miss dearly, Pearse said.

Sherry Blaize, the courthouse’s building manager, declined to comment about the expansion. According to the courthouse’s Web site, the building is expanding to meet the increasing demands of the courts.

[email protected]