When Peter Brountas’ father, Arthur Brountas, returned home to Bangor from World War II, he decided to get into the family business and turn his family’s fruit stand into a restaurant. The eatery and bar, located at the intersection of Main and Union Streets, was known as Peter’s Spa, and was one of many successful businesses run by the Brountas family, one of Bangor’s original families of Greek immigrants. It operated in conjunction with the Greyhound Bus station, which Brountas also opened around the same time.
Over the years, the business at 152 Main St. has been known as many things — Peter’s Spa, the Jaguar, Peter’s Candlelighter, the Tavern, and now Main Tavern, as it has been called for more than two decades. It has operated under its various names and family owners for 65 years, making it the oldest business in downtown Bangor.
But when Greyhound decided to pull out of its downtown location and move operations to Dysart’s Truck Stop in Hermon, Peter Brountas saw an opportunity.
“It gave us the opportunity to expand and to use the space that was available,” he said. “Business has been really good lately, between the Waterfront Concerts and just so much energy downtown. It just seemed like the right time to do it.”
Starting last August, Brountas and Orono-based designer Chez Cherry have been clearing out many years worth of bar decor — from 1980s-era Budweiser signs to knick-knacks collected by employees and patrons alike — and putting a fresh coat of paint on the Tavern. Last week, it reopened with its brand new, clean, greatly expanded look.
“With this new expansion, we’ve kind of come full circle,” said Brountas. “It feels good.”
Gone are the old floors, the cramped pool room and the chipped paint; instead, there are hardwood floors, two new pool tables, a spacious new bar, more than double the seating and brand new bathrooms. Cherry said his goal was to update the whole place, without losing some of the Tavern’s dive bar atmosphere.
“Because the business has been here for so long, I tried to recreate the feel of a classic ’40s, ’50s city bar in the main bar area,” said Cherry. “We didn’t want to lose what makes this place what it is, but we did want to clean it out and try to invite a whole new clientele in. I think we found that balance.”
Longtime Tavern patrons might not recognize the place, at times. The tin ceilings in the dance and karaoke room have been restored to their original white luster. Brountas brought in two huge, ornate mirrors from his family home, both of which are dedicated to his aunt, Georgia Leakos. Instead of torn chairs and blinding fluorescent lights, there’s booth seating and soft lamps. And as an homage to its long history in downtown Bangor, there are a number of photos of the city from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s hanging on the walls.
“The more we worked on it, the more things we saw to fix,” said Cherry. “We really went all the way with these renovations. I think it’s something to be proud of, because Peter and his family have been dedicated to downtown for all these years.”
“Downtown Bangor is a great place to do business,” said Brountas. “That’s why we’ve been here for so long. I’m just thrilled with all of it.”
The Main Tavern will host a grand opening party on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, Feb. 14, with specials and giveaways. For information, visit The Main Tavern on Facebook.