You have to look hard, or be in the know, to find Club 302 in Windham. Chances are you’ll drive right past it (like I did — three times) because it’s tucked back away from the road, nestled in with the box stores, fast-food joints and auto body shops whose signs are bigger, brighter and louder than its unassuming facade.
But once you find Club 302, it’s anything but small and unnoticeable; the place is a huge pool-hall-meets-concert-hall-meets-sports-bar-meets-restaurant. And that combination, albeit broad, draws a steady, enthusiastic, all-walks-of-life crowd.
Club 302 holds a unique place in the community because it creates community. Unlike other bars and restaurants that have occasional feature nights or benefits, Club 302 is all about causes and events, all the time. Take the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament. The soon-to-be bimonthly event pays out 25 percent of the evening’s winnings to charity.
Club 302 also regularly hosts Momentum, a group providing individualized services for adults with intellectual disabilities, for Spring Fling and Christmas dances, during which everyone dresses to the nines and dances the night away, while sipping sparkling, nonalcoholic beverages. And then there’s the scrolling lineup of great live music, local stage company performances and banquets, receptions and benefits.
Before it was built, the founders of Club 302 conceptualized a meeting place where they could offer their community just about anything.
And they do.
You want sleek, well-kept, top-quality Diamond pool tables? Club 302’s got ’em. Twelve, to be precise. You want to watch a game? Or maybe three games? Try more than 10 flat-screen TVs.
You want to hear live music and get down on an old-school checkered dance floor with a full stage and bar to boot? Check.
Or maybe you want to lounge about away from the fray on cushy leather couches near a fireplace? Yup. Club 302 has those too.
How about a hearty, tasty, quality meal to keep you well nourished through all those activities? You’ve got it.
And, of course, Club 302 has classic happy-hour specials (4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday), when patrons can have their choice of either the small sampler (three wings, four ribs, fries and onion rings), three loaded potato skins, a half order of cheesy fries or a plate of loaded nachos for only $5. Pair the food with a $7 pitcher of PBR or maybe an $8 domestic pitcher, and you’re good to go.
Club 302 offers a decent selection of domestic and imported beers on tap (Shipyard to Guinness, and others in between), and the bottled selection has some boutique favorites that will satisfy the discerning beer drinker (Shipyard, Smithwicks, Red Strip, Frye’s Leap, Old Thumper, Allagash, Hop Devil, Sierra Nevada).
Even before seeing the options, Club 302 had me at hello — really.
The moment I walked in the door, I was greeted with a hearty, “Hi there! C’mon in!” And I couldn’t help but feel that I was just another happy regular stopping in to grab a pint. That experience continued at the bar as I ended up chatting the evening away with the very congenial bartenders and the kind folks sitting there. At one point, one of the gentlemen sitting a few seats down from me was inspired to buy the bar a round. Who does that anymore?
That’s the moment you know that Club 302 is doing something — scratch that — lots of things right.
Johanna Sorrell is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.