Regulars at the Skybox Bar and Grill are looking for a new watering hole since the Brown Street bar made its final last call for alcohol Tuesday evening before shutting its doors for good at midnight.

Skybox owners Tom and Ellen Dore decided not to appeal to the state to overturn the Westbrook City Council’s March 3 decision to deny the bar its liquor license.

“You get tired of the fight after a while,” Tom Dore said Sunday.

Though Dore was confident that the state’s Liquor License and Compliance Division in the Department of Public Safety would overturn the City Council’s decision, he would then have had to appeal licenses to sell food, play music and allow pinball and pool at the establishment – all of which were also denied by the city – “just so we can start fighting it all over again next year,” he said.

According to customers at Skybox, the Dores, who have owned the bar for four years, really turned the place around, making it safer than it ever had been before. The perception that it’s a rowdy bar where people are over-served and fights frequently erupt is a false one, they said.

“It’s got a bad reputation, but it’s not a bad place,” said Tim McCullough, who would go to the bar three times a week.

Events like the beach party held Sunday, where patrons donned Hawaiian shirts, as well as the food, which Dore called “second to none,” and the camaraderie among customers are what define the Skybox, according to patrons and employees.

Joe Daley, a self-employed painter, said the Skybox is a place where he found new customers for his own business and where he’s planned hunting and fishing trips with friends.

Dennis Lotti said the bartenders all know that Coors Light is his beer of choice.

“They have it for you before you sit down,” he said. “We all know one another.”

According to Amy LaRose, who has a beer and a bite to eat after work at the River’s Edge Deli, walking into the Skybox is “like walking into Cheers,” she said. “It’s the friendliest pub I’ve ever been to.”

Bartenders Beverley VanBrocklin and Tonya Gerrish said Tuesday afternoon they’d be fighting back tears come the end of the night.

“It’s not about losing my job. It’s about losing my family,” VanBrocklin said.

One prominent member of the Skybox family is Butch Ferris, who has been coming to the bar for almost 40 years, long before the Dores were the owners. Ferris, who lives two houses up the street from the bar, walks over every day.

“I’m a fixture,” he said. “This is my home.”

Ferris, who doesn’t drive, doesn’t know how he’ll fill the hole in his daily routine now that the bar has been shut down.

“This is a sad day for Westbrook,” he said.

Though the Dores, who each own other businesses, will remain the owners of the building at 212 Brown St., they have no plans for trying to open up another bar again.

Tom Dore said he doesn’t think there will ever be another bar in that building, as long as the owners have to go to the City Council for approval.

“We did everything we said we were going to do,” Dore said about an agreement he made with the City Council to make several improvements to the bar when the license renewals came up two years ago. “They don’t want a bar in this location.”

Councilor John O’Hara said the City Council’s perception was that the management of the bar “was starting to slide back” from the standards put in place two years ago.

Dore said he thought the council would think differently if its members spent any time there.

O’Hara said he had been into the Skybox once briefly, and that it “seemed to be running fine,” but said running a bar is a “Jekyll and Hyde business,” where scenes can quickly turn ugly.

O’Hara said the Dores aren’t completely off the mark in thinking the bar’s checkered past and location in the middle of a residential neighborhood are concerns of the City Council. But, in terms of the number of police calls received from in and around the bar – the focus of the City Council when denying the license two weeks ago – every drinking establishment will undergo the same type of scrutiny, he said.

Whatever the reasoning for denying the license, the Dores have decided that it’s not worth the fight any more.

“They’re going to lose a great place,” Tom Dore said. “A lot of people are going to miss us.”


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