For more than 50 years, Dysart’s Restaurant in Hermon has stayed open 24 hours a day, every day of the year but Christmas, serving up Dysart’s menu favorites including Egg McRuth sandwiches, poutine and stacks of blueberry pancakes to long-haul truckers, night owls, college students and third-shift workers throughout the Bangor area.
As of Oct. 1, however, those 2 a.m. feasts of French fries and coffee will be a thing of the past. That’s when Dysart’s Restaurant will cut back its hours to 5 a.m. to midnight.
“It just came down to whether or not we could justify staying open all night, when an overnight with 10 customers would be considered a busy night,” said John Mason, general manager for both the Hermon and Bangor Dysart’s restaurants. “We’ve had these discussions among the staff for a couple of years, but within the last seven months it became clear that we just couldn’t keep doing it.”
Mason said that, as a manager, the decision to cut back serving hours wasn’t a hard one to make. But as a longtime employee who has worked for Dysart’s in several capacities for 27 years, he said the choice was bittersweet.
“One of our servers here has been working overnights for 17 years,” he said. “Even she said, when we told her we were going to stop overnights, that she wasn’t surprised. She knew this was coming. It’s sad, but it’s just what had to happen.”
Late night Dysart’s trips were an essential part of life for many young Bangor-area residents throughout the decades — college students, whether studying for class or on their way back from a night out, would often stop in for coffee and a snack.
According to Bangor City Councilor Gretchen Schaefer, who worked and lived in Bangor while attending the University of Maine in the 1990s, Dysart’s served as a local melting pot of workers, truckers, students and tourists during those late night hours.
“It was a place to go to hang out late into the night, study for class, and it was always a mix of truckers from all over the country, college students, people passing through,” said Schaefer, who worked at Borders in Bangor for years in her early 20s. “It’s where we’d go after closing down Borders at 11. When you ordered coffee you got the whole pot, and an Egg McRuth was the perfect late night dinner.”
Mason said that the fuel department and store at the Hermon location will still remain open 24 hours a day, and will be stocked with plenty of to-go food items. A sit-down hot meal, however, will soon be a thing of the past. Mason said that he thinks there are a number of factors contributing to the decline in both overnight customers, and availability of staff to serve them.
“Everything costs more. Minimum wage. Styrofoam. And the trucking laws changed, so there are less overnight truckers these days, since you can’t be on the clock for more than 14 hours,” said Mason. “People don’t work the third shift like they used to. It’s just different times.”
The Dysart’s Restaurant location on Broadway in Bangor — which wasn’t a 24-hour location — will keep its hours.