BANGOR, Maine — With a pair of major concerts on Wednesday, Bangor-area businesses braced for the onslaught of thousands of concert-goers.
The Dave Matthews Band took the stage along the Penobscot River at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion at 7:30 p.m., and Ringo Starr, the former drummer for the Beatles, performed a half mile down Main Street at the Cross Insurance Center about the same time.
“It’s all hands on deck,” said Gene Beck, who owns Nocturnem Draft Haus, a high-end beer bar in downtown Bangor. “We’ll definitely see a big rush beforehand.”
Beck said Wednesday morning that a weekday with a concert or other major event makes his bar feel more like a busy Friday or Saturday night.
Other business owners seconded that impression.
Geaghan’s Pub is located across the street from the Cross Insurance Center and just down the road from the Waterfront Concerts venue, but those only came recently.
Peter Geaghan, one of the business’ owners, frequently jokes, “It took us 35 years, but we finally have a good location.”
“We treat it like it’s a busy Friday night,” Geaghan said of concert nights.
One of the restaurant’s biggest sellers is its boneless chicken wings. On a normal Friday night, the place typically sells 250-300 pounds of wings.
“We’re planning for 500 pounds [Wednesday night],” Geaghan said.
Two years ago, when Dave Matthews performed on the Bangor Waterfront, it resulted in one of the top-five busiest nights in Nocturnem’s five-year history. That was Dave Matthews Band’s first Maine performance in 17 years, and the band apparently felt things went well enough to warrant coming back to Bangor two years later.
The concerts have opened other opportunities for area business owners, who have tried to find new ways of attracting the concert crowd and keeping them around.
In addition to running Nocturnem, Beck also operates the Growler Bus, which provides group tours of area breweries and distilleries. On some concert nights this summer, the bus will take people on a pre-concert “pre-gaming” outing to Geaghan’s Brewery in Brewer and Mason’s Brewing Co. before dropping them off at the concert venue.
Geaghan’s opened up the tasting room in its brewery on the concert night, and it had the Stray Dog food truck on site to feed hungry people before the shows.
At Mason’s Brewing, which opened in May just in time for the concert season, outdoor seating is especially in demand on concert nights, according to owner Chris Morley.
“There’s no doubt that there’s definitely a surge in business when there’s a concert,” he said Wednesday morning, adding that he has a special “concert-night menu” of primarily burgers and pizzas, which helps his kitchen staff keep up.
Demand for deck space is high. For that reason, Morley is experimenting with a $100 minimum for groups sitting at outdoor tables. That’s meant to prevent people from tying up a table for hours without ordering food or drink. Most of the outdoor picnic tables were reserved well in advance of Wednesday night’s outdoor show. He said people are welcome to gather with camp chairs in the lawn around his business to enjoy the show.
Hotels in Bangor were heavily booked for Wednesday night, with the possibility of more people looking for rooms after the shows.
“There’s just a small handful of properties with rooms left,” said Kerrie Tripp, executive director of the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Tripp said she’s interested to see how Bangor’s streets handle the traffic, but that if past events are any indication, they should be up to the task with minimal delays.
Late Wednesday morning along the Bangor Waterfront, a trio of food trucks were busy serving people on their lunch breaks. They were expecting it to be a long day.
Pompeii Pizza will serve up pies later than normal, staying open until about 11 p.m. to catch the concert crowds. Grammy’s Grilled Cheeses and Melts and Wild Cow Creamery expect to keep their trucks open as the crowds spill in and out of the venue.
Sarah Wilder, owner of Wild Cow Creamery, said she kept her truck open serving ice cream until 1 a.m. last time Dave Matthews Band was in town. Normally, the truck shuts down about 8 p.m.
“It seemed like no one wanted to go home after the show,” Wilder said. “We’ll stay open as long as people are out here.”
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.