Saco drive-in revs up business with Buffett, beer

Posted June 16, 2014, at 4:09 p.m.

SACO, Maine — The Saco Drive-In turns into Margaritaville Thursday night, so keep your fins to the left when cruisin’ down Route 1.

The iconic theater is launching its 75th season with a new digital projector and new era for outdoor entertainment, simulcasting a Jimmy Buffett concert from Texas under the stars.

The live at the drive-in concert series from the Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth, Texas, puts viewers in a sea of parrotheads.

“You are seeing a show in the same environment that you are in,” Ry Russell, owner of the Saco Drive-in, said. “It’s as close as you can get to live.”

But that’s not all. This season, Russell is adding a tiki bar to his concession offerings.

“For us, everything is coming together. The digital projector changed it into an all-around awesome venue,” says the 24 year old who ran a successful campaign last year to keep the popular drive-in alive.

In addition to enjoying chicken fingers in paradise, guests can now sip beer and wine at picnic tables surrounded by tiki torches and fireflies. But no hard stuff — this is still a family place.

“Moms can have a glass of wine, and fathers can have a Bud Light. Kids can have chicken fingers,” said Russell, who also plans to sell Maine craft beer, like Baxter Brewing Co., in cans.

The Saco native is aware that being a liquor vendor could get sticky, so the beer garden closes at intermission.

With the new addition comes a new policy: No more BYOB.

“We want to create a controlled environment,” he said. “We are not on a witch hunt to ruin peoples’ fun.”

Speaking of fun, laser tag is added two nights a week, more concerts will be live cast this summer and look for events like the baseball World Series to be shown on the big screen.

Russell is just getting started.

Next year, he wants Buffett to be here, live. He is in talks with Alex Gray of Bangor’s Waterfront Concerts, which is hosting national and international acts like Arcade Fire and Willie Nelson at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion this summer.

“By late 2015, we will be holding our own concerts,” Russell said.

The drive-in is zoned for entertainment, so Russell would only need a dance license to pull it off.

“The biggest thing is to get a stage built. My passion for this theater is what drives us to do more and always serve our customers better.”

Tickets for Buffett are $20 per person. Gates open at 6 p.m., and the show starts at 8:45 p.m.

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