After the Portland Phoenix ceased publication in February, Old Port entrepreneur Nathan O’Leary decided to seize the opportunity to take over the alternative weekly’s annual business awards, renaming them after his website, PortlandOldPort.com.

“We wanted to continue the tradition of honoring and recognizing Greater Portland businesses,” said O’Leary, who opened nominations online at the beginning of July.

“Within a few hours we had a couple thousand nominations, and within one day we knew it was going to be a successful event,” said PortlandOldPort.com business partner Dan Santos. “In these days of Yelp, there’s too much tearing down of businesses. I love that we get to celebrate local businesses.”

Over three weeks, 30,000 nominations came in for more than 100 categories, from best art gallery to best wellness center, with dozens of categories related to eating and drinking in between. Voting was open all of August, limited to one vote per email address per day per category, and 16,000 people (or email addresses) participated, casting 170,000 votes.

All category winners received certificates at an awards party Sept. 5 at Portland House of Music, with a row of food trucks outside, including the Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck, winner of the award for best food truck.

“It’s important to come together and be a community,” said emcee Cherry Lemonade, voted best drag personality.

The category that got the most play – at 1,181 votes – was best bartender, which went to Missy Laughlin of PT’s Showclub. Another popular category, best doughnuts, with 1,160 votes, went to The Holy Donut. Nods went to DiMillo’s On the Water (for best tourist trap), Portland Lobster Co. (best lobster roll), Duckfat (best french fries) and Ri Ra (best Irish pub).

The Independent Ice Co., a whiskey bar on Wharf Street that has been open for 14 months, received a pile of honors: best restaurant service, best happy hour, best new bar, best-kept secret, best date spot and best blind/Tinder date spot.

“I can’t believe we won six awards,” said General Manager Gary Savage, who also was voted best artist. “When I go home, I paint to de-stress, and I didn’t even know I was nominated.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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