SOUTH PORTLAND — Construction has begun on what will be Big Babe’s Tavern and owner Ginger Cote said she’s “never been more happy to see earth move around and concrete poured.”

Cote is redeveloping the former Griffin Club property at 62 Ocean St. in Knightville as a tavern with a small inn. She said the project is expected to cost $2.2 million. 

Construction began Thursday, Nov. 29. Cote said a soft opening is tentatively scheduled for June 2019. 

Cote bought the property at 60 Ocean St. in June 2017 for $600,000 and originally presented plans in January for a four-story building with a music venue and restaurant on the first floor, and five residential condos above priced from $525,000-$875,000. 

Cote later decided a two-story building with a five-room inn above the tavern would be a better fit for the neighborhood. Plans were approved by the city Planning Board in September. 

Cote said the 64-seat tavern will have a separate lounge, serve lunch and dinner, and be open until midnight. In keeping with the original proposal, Cote will reside in the building.

Parking requirements for the project dictate a total of 15 spaces to accommodate the businesses. Eight parking spaces will be available on site, with three spaces available along C Street and four off-site spaces, according to the plans.

An Aroostook County native, Cote has lived in South Portland for 15 years. She is a professional musician who has toured for decades with artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris, and has said there is a need for a music scene in the city and more support for the arts.

Cote said the tavern will feature live music from 8:30-11:30 p.m.

The 5,800-square-foot, circa-1900 building that housed the Griffin Club was razed in April. In its heyday, the club attracted national sports celebrities and always entertained a loyal local clientele.

Although a snowy November delayed work a bit, this week’s forecast, which projected sunshine and temperatures ranging from 30 to 50 degrees, promised the “perfect” conditions for pouring the building’s foundation and putting up the exterior walls, which is the most “crucial, weather-dependent” aspect of construction, according to Cote. 

Once that’s finished, she said, construction crews will be in a good place to work on the interior “all winter long.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Construction has begun at 62 Ocean St. in South Portland, the former site of the Griffin Club, where owner Ginger Cote plans to open Big Babe’s Tavern in July 2019. . 

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