Duo borrows from the past to open new Bangor nightclub

Matt Brann (left) and Michael Bjork bought the former Club Gemini in Bangor. They are in the process of renovating the space and will re-open it as the Half Acre night club in mid-August.
Gabor Degre | BDN
Matt Brann (left) and Michael Bjork bought the former Club Gemini in Bangor. They are in the process of renovating the space and will re-open it as the Half Acre night club in mid-August. Buy Photo
By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff
Posted July 22, 2012, at 8:10 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — It’s going to be called Half Acre, but right now, Bangor’s newest nightclub looks more like half finished.

No lights or speakers have been installed, the wiring is exposed, there are gaps in the ceiling, the wood is unfinished, the walls are half painted and plaster dust covers almost every square inch of the 7,360 square feet being renovated at the rear, ground level of the building at 190 Harlow St.

But for one half of the duo behind Bangor’s newest nightclub, it’s a second chance to create the premier dance club destination in the area. For the other, it’s a chance to realize a longtime goal of owning a business.

“We’ve had some bad luck with tenants in this space over the years,” said Matt Brann, who along with twin brother Pat Brann owned and operated Club Gemini in the same space from 2005 to 2009. “We had a couple tenants come in after and totally trashed the space, one after closing and the other before opening.”

Brann was referring to Club Ice, which owner Eddie Hunt closed in 2010, and Revolver, which Paul Noonan never opened after gutting the space for renovations that were never completed.

Brann was talking about what to do with the space with friend and Newport native Michael Bjork, when Bjork suggested they run the place together.

“He said if I paid for all the renovation costs, he’d take out a start-up business loan and take care of all the licensing and permits and everything else to get up and running,” Brann said.

Bjork and Brann have been spending all their off hours — both have regular day jobs, as a U.S. Cellular service technician and Ellsworth Home Depot assistant store manager, respectively — working on the club since November.

“We need to finish some plumbing and electrical, but other than that, the carpet’s ready to go down and after that it’s all finish and trim work with staining and a nail gun,” Brann said.

Brann and Bjork have set opening night for Friday, Aug. 17. The club will be open 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday and utilize a classic theme and feel with hardwood accents and period decor.

“We’re using a lot of wood framing and accents with the bar and the rest of the decor,” said Bjork, 28. “The wood crafting behind the bar will look gorgeous. I’m really proud of what we’ve done.”

The club’s name comes from Devil’s Half Acre, the nickname of an area in Bangor in the 19th century.

“A friend of mine kind of stumbled on the Devil’s Half Acre thing. We jotted it down, did some research and decided to use it,” said Brann, 31. “This area was part of what was once referred to the Devil’s Half Acre back when logging and lumber was huge here.

“There was a lot of gambling, drinking and brothels in the area,” Brann said. “We’re not trying to say this will be a sketchy place, but we think it’s kind of fun to be able to incorporate an interesting history of our town into our club’s name and historical theme.”

Half Acre will also feature an innovative and unique dance atmosphere, on-site DJ’s, two separate bars and an ornate function room for private parties.

“We’re very excited about the dance floor because it’s very different than any other one I’ve ever been around in this area,” Bjork said. “It’s elevated with a railing around it. There will be tension wire railings with a solid bannister on the top.”

The ceiling opens up above the dance floor to further set it apart from the rest of the club, and two satellite dance stages will be built over two large subwoofers on both sides of the dance floor.

The club will have about 4,500 square feet for patrons with a capacity of about 300 people. Brann and Bjork envision a part-time staff of 15-17 people.

Brann said he plans to use several new promotional wrinkles in social media.

“We have an app you can download on your phone to get updates from us, find out who’s bartending and DJing, request songs from your phone and get the DJ playlists,” Brann said. “We’re also going to use Twitter to send out announcements about temporary drink specials to give people a reason to sign up for updates or be regular patrons.”

Brann and Bjork both agree that the increased traffic upstairs from Diamonds gentleman’s club will help their business.

“They can’t dance upstairs, but they like the atmosphere and the music, so we see it as a complementary situation,” Bjork said.

“As long as both businesses maintain their own identities, we don’t see it as a competitive situation at all,” said Brann.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/07/22/business/duo-borrows-from-the-past-to-open-new-bangor-nightclub/ printed on August 27, 2014