The longtime owner of The Big Easy, a cozy Portland music club much loved by local musicians, is planning to open a new music venue in the city by summer.
Ken Bell, who ran The Big Easy for about eight years before it closed in 2013, said Thursday that he plans to open Portland House of Music and Events in the former Minott’s Flowers space at the corner of Temple and Federal streets on the edge of the Old Port.
Bell said he signed a lease with the building’s owners in February, and is hoping to open by late May.
The new venue will be about twice as big as the former Big Easy on Market Street, with a capacity of about 300 people in a 3,500-square-foot space. The format will be similar to the Big Easy’s, focusing on local bands of all types and affordable tickets.
Bell said part of the new name, Portland House of Music and Events, is an acronym for “home.”
“A lot of musicians felt The Big Easy was a home to them, and that’s what we’ll be trying to do here,” said Bell.
The Big Easy under Bell’s management closed in October 2013, after Bell’s lease expired and he did not reach new terms with the building owner. The club, which had been operating on Market Street in the Old Port since the early 1990s, re-opened in 2014, but mostly as a comedy club.
When Bell left Portland’s music scene, local musicians lamented the loss. But Bell said he began immediately trying to get back into the music business and to replicate The Big Easy in another spot. It just took him a while to find the right spot.
Bell said he had taken local musicians with him to see other potential venues before settling on the Temple Street space. He also consulted with local musicians, including Lyle Divinsky and members of The Mallett Brothers Band, in trying to figure out what sort of space his new venue should have.
“Then one day last summer my wife and I were walking past (the closed Minott’s space) and I fell in love with it,” said Bell.
Bell will have a partner in the new club, music promoter Jamie Isaacson, one of the organizers of the annual North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland. Before the club can open, new bathrooms, sprinklers and safety equipment must be added, Bell said.
Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: