PORTLAND, Maine — It’s not flashy. It’s hard to find, even for locals in the know, and it seldom pops up on Instagram feeds. But Howie’s Pub has become a local destination because of the bar’s namesake: Howie Chadbourne.
But the 62-year-old owner of the no-frills East Deering watering hole is in the process of selling his pub and expects to pour his last pint by Jan. 31.
Chadbourne plans to put money he makes from the sale toward retirement and then try his hand at something new.
“Construction or driving for Uber,” he said.
If Uber sticks, he won’t recede from Portland’s nightlife after all — just look for him behind the wheel, not the bar.
“I’ve been in it too long. I need a breath of fresh air,” said Chadbourne, who started work in Portland’s nightlife scene 42 years ago.
His resume, if he has one, is a history of greater Portland dives. He’s tended bar at Forest Gardens, the Griffin Club, The Peanut House, Mulligans, Dock Fore and the Dry Dock. In 2003, Chadbourne opened Howie’s Pub on Washington Avenue by the Interstate 295 off-ramp and has been keeping locals sated and laughing ever since.
Behind the counter, bartender-in-chief Chadbourne creates a “Cheers”-like atmosphere at the snug pub. He is quick with a joke or to fill up your pint glass, but increasingly (as the Billy Joel song goes), there’s someplace that he’d rather be.
“I’m ready to do something else,” said Chadbourne, who works 80-hour weeks as the steady presence in this tucked away venue.
A company called Highlife LLC goes before the Portland City Council Wednesday night to receive a liquor license for the pub. If approved and inspections pass, Chadbourne will sell the pub to the new owners and leave the bartending business — which has been his profession since he was 20 — for good.
The potential new owners have told Chadbourne they will not change a thing.
“The only thing that will be missing is me,” said Chadbourne with a wink.
He will continue to run the pub’s lively trivia sessions on Tuesday nights.
“I like coming up with the questions and entertaining the people,” he said.
Chadbourne wants his pub to keep its casual essence — including the dart boards, affordable pizzas and pints.
“People need neighborhood bars, a place to go in and sit and be comfortable,” he said.
He rattled off the city’s few remaining proletarian joints that fit that bill: Samuel’s Bar and Grill, Munjoy Hill Tavern, Ruskis and Forest Gardens.
“People call it a dive bar,” he said shaking his head. “I don’t care what you call it as long as you come in.”