March 14, 2013

Bar Guide: You don't have to be perfect to partake at Pearl

Portland's self-proclaimed 'hottest nightclub' has a pleasant atmosphere and friendly staff.


All my friends can confirm this fact about me: There's maybe four times a year that I am in the mood to get all gussied up and go out dancing. That's about once every three months and my quota for this quarter has already been met.

click image to enlarge

Upscale nightclub Pearl has recently added to its space, opening up its “Pearl Tap House” where you’ll find fancy drinks and an atmosphere conducive to conversation.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 442 Fore St., Portland

PHONE: 523-9600

WEBSITE: with more up-to-date information on Pearl's Facebook page ( PearlLoungePortland)

HOURS: 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday

PARKING: On street or parking garage

SPECIALS: Nightly specials vary

SCENE: Upscale lounge bar and nightclub where you won't find torn jeans or ragged T-shirts.

AMENITIES: Large dance floor with DJs


Putting that out front to begin with, you can imagine I was a bit hesitant about dropping in to review Pearl -- Portland's self-proclaimed "hottest nightclub." I'm happy to report, however, I was pleasantly surprised at what my friend Amy and I found.

When we approached Pearl rather early on a Saturday night, our first concern was our attire. One look at all the pictures on Pearl's regularly updated Facebook page will assure you that tattered jeans and ragged T-shirts won't be allowed. Granted, I was wearing a dress and boots and Amy was wearing nice jeans and a sweater, but we still worried we weren't quite up to par.

Fortunately, the bouncer let us in and we made our way to the long sleek bar in the nightclub. Over loud dance music, I tried asking the bartender if there was a drinks menu. She said there wasn't, which contradicts what I found on the bar's website. Come to find out, not everything you find online is accurate and Pearl is revamping its menu.

Apparently, the nightclub is under new management and has also opened up another space right next door. You don't have to go outside to visit the bar addition, you just walk through a nice archway.

Not ready to get our dance on, Amy and I decided to check out this new space. The bar itself wraps around, and three stylish brick archways frame where the bartenders mix cocktails and pour beers. I asked for a drink menu, but he reiterated what I heard from the other side. It's still being tweaked.

According to the Pearl's Facebook page, this side of the business is called "Pearl Tap House." It complements the nightclub nicely, with bartenders dressed in suit vests with ties serving up high-end cocktails in a rather fancy-looking space. You could still hear the music from next door but it wasn't quite as loud, so conversation was easily had.

As I sipped on a $7 Stoli orange vodka and soda water, the bartender shared with me what the new drink menu would look like. With more than a dozen fancy concoctions, drinks range in price from $9 to $11. The bar's Facebook page does advertise varying specials. One night, this included $1 Rolling Rock 16-ounce drafts, $2 Bud Light 20-ounce drafts and Michelob Ultra 16-ounce drafts, plus $5 Honey Jack shots and whiskey drinks.

I can't offer a comparison of what Pearl is like under new management, versus what it was like before. I can, however, say I was pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere on both sides of the bar and enjoyed the friendly staff.

Maybe the next time I feel like getting my dance on, I'll find my way back there.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.


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