The management team, from left, at Big Babe’s Tavern in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood, which opened this week: general manager Caitlin Houser, owner Ginger Cote, chef Dylan Houser and bar manager Michele Morris. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND — A plaque above the bar at Big Babe’s Tavern sums up the owner’s feelings about her new venture: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”

Years in the making, Ginger “Big Babe” Cote said this week it was worth the wait to see her dream come true and get her Knightville-based establishment up and running.

Cote purchased the property in 2017 but it took a year for her plans to be approved by the city. A federal government shutdown also delayed her obtaining a small business loan.

Big Babe’s Tavern in Knightville includes a five-room inn on the top floor. The tavern is in the same location as the former Griffin Club. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

Cote also decided to forego building condos on the top floor in favor of a five-room inn. Construction began in late 2018 at 60 Ocean St. The tavern finally opened Jan. 27.

Cote, a professional musician who toured for decades with popular artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris, hopes Big Babe’s Tavern, will “become a cozy neighborhood bar where people come for good music and good food. ”

“I want it to be a nice community spot,” Cote said.

The 64-seat tavern has a separate lounge and will serve lunch and dinner. It will be open until midnight and, in keeping with the original proposal, Cote will live onsite.

Cote said the inn will open sometime in mid-February.

Cote said with her Canadian-French ancestry it was important to have “poutine done right on the menu.” The tavern will also serve a type of “smash burger” that she hopes will become popular with patrons.

Music and live entertainment will burlesque shows every month, Latin dance parties, swing dance sessions and an all-ages music jam on Saturday afternoons, which she hopes to start in March.

Cote is also excited to have musician Kenya Hall in residency. Hall, based in Portland, has shared the stage with acclaimed bands, such as The Roots and The Rustic Overtones. Having her play regularly at Big Babe’s is “a really big deal,” according to Cote.

“It’s so surreal that it’s actually happening,” Cote said this week. “Everybody’s gone way above the call of duty to make this happen and get us ready to open.”

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