FREEPORT – After abruptly closing this February, longtime Freeport eatery Jameson Tavern quietly re-opened July 7 under a new ownership group headed by Maine restaurant veterans Christian Erdmann and Tom Hincks. Hincks, who has 32 years of experience in Maine kitchens, signed a five-year lease on May 21 from longtime Jameson Tavern owner Jack Stiles, who closed the popular restaurant due to a downturn in business and increased competition.

“It was a turnkey deal and after a few complications, we had a soft opening,” Hincks, 46, of Yarmouth, said last week.

Hincks, who most recently operated Fisherman’s Grill in Portland, had been scouting other locations, including Yarmouth, but ultimately was attracted to the history of Jameson Tavern and the opportunity to inject new energy into a classic Maine restaurant, he said.

“I’m confident this will work because everything is made from scratch and the prices are accessible,” said Hincks. “The location is great and I’ve had a steady stream of people poking their heads in the door to check the place out and wish us luck.”

The renovations were mostly cosmetic fixes, like new tables, chairs, and removing the black lacquer from the centuries-old pumpkin pine floorboards in the tavern area, said Hincks.

For co-proprietor Christian Erdmann, who is a partner “right down the middle,” said Hincks, the process of opening the doors has been busy.

“It’s never easy, but so far, so good,” said Erdmann.

Erdmann and Hincks operated the tiny Fishermen’s Grill on Forest Avenue in Portland and won raves from users of social media sites such as Yelp, Urban Spoon and Trip Advisor, an increasingly influential source of business from savvy tourists and locals alike.

“Everybody is a foodie these days, so you have a bunch of armchair Pete Wellses and Frank Brunis writing reviews,” said Hincks, referring to the current and former restaurant critics of the New York Times. “Chefs are the new rock stars and people have high expectations.”

Hincks is no stranger to the cult of culinary arts, having been visited by popular chef/writer Anthony Bourdain at his former restaurant and serving a number of rock musicians and actors from Gateway Mastering, a nationally respected, Portland-based recording studio owned by sound engineer Bob Ludwig.

For those returning to Jameson Tavern, the re-opening represents a continuation of tradition.

“This is where I come every summer with family,” said San Diego resident Mike Staples, 38, who was dining in the al fresco section of the eatery July 11. “It’s good to see the place open and busy.”

Hincks said municipal officials in Freeport, known for a business-friendly environment, were the best he’s ever dealt with.

“It’s a big contrast to Portland, where you get the feeling they couldn’t care less,” said Hincks. “Here it was very smooth and professional and we weren’t bogged down with huge administrative hurdles.”

Built in 1779, Jameson Tavern has a long and colorful history and was purported to be where the documents were signed to officially separate Maine from Massachusetts. That claim was recently debunked by the Freeport Historical Society and Daughters of the American Revolution, which had laid a plaque in 1914 commemorating the claim of Freeport being the “Birthplace of Maine.”

According to information on the restaurant’s website, such luminaries as the poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier, as well as the 14th president of the United States, Franklin Pierce, were known to have stopped there on their way to Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

The restaurant gained national attention in 2003 when popular Food Network personality Bobby Flay visited to learn first-hand the techniques of cooking a traditional Maine lobster dinner.

Brahms Mount, the retailer now occupying the converted front section of the building, will continue to operate, said Hincks

Tom Hincks, left, and Christian Erdmann, are the proprietors of the recently re-opened Jameson Tavern in Freeport, which re-opened July 7.

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