After closing unexpectedly in February, the historic Jameson Tavern on Freeport’s Main Street is scheduled to reopen this summer under new management.
Tom Hincks, former owner of the Fisherman’s Grill in Portland, finalized a new lease for the restaurant on Wednesday. He said he plans to complete some interior renovations and open for business before July 4.
Jack Stiles operated the restaurant for more than 30 years, said Matthew Cardente, who helped broker the lease agreement.
“We’re restoring what I remember from back in the day,” said Hincks, 46, of Yarmouth, who expressed respect for Stiles and his long run as owner. “I’m just trying to make the old guy proud and make a living.”
Stiles did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
Before closing the Jameson Tavern in February, Stiles converted the restaurant’s front dining room into a retail space that has been leased to Brahm’s Mount, a high-end local textile manufacturer. The lease of the restaurant will not displace Brahm’s Mount, Cardente said.
Hincks’ lease covers five years with an option after two years to extend the agreement. As long as business is steady, Hincks said, he plans to expand and build a permanent cover over an outdoor patio that is open during the summer.
Cardente, who said he worked at the restaurant years ago, said he is happy that the property will retain its name and identity.
“Everybody who was looking at (the property) either wanted to change the name or do something different,” he said.
Built in 1779, the tavern was once an inn. For years, it was said to be the site of the signing of documents declaring Maine’s independence from Massachusetts, although that claim now appears dubious.
Hincks said that, in taking over from Stiles, he plans to keep as much of the atmosphere as possible while making aesthetic updates to the space, with new tables and chairs and a refinished bar and floor surface.
Workers have spent three days sanding a thick coat of black lacquer from the decades-old barn boards in the main dining room — a feature that puzzled Hincks.
“Talk about making a tavern as dark as possible,” he said.
While the restaurant’s interior will be largely unchanged, the menu will be revamped, with a heavy emphasis on local produce, fish and meats.
Hincks said the only frozen product he plans to use is Maine shrimp, only because of the short duration of the fishing season.
While buying lobsters, clams, crabs and other seafood directly from fishermen takes more time each day than getting it from a traditional food supplier, Hincks said customers in the age of social media and celebrity chefs are increasingly food savvy and willing to return for consistent quality.
Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: