Lockers at Man & Oak cost between $45 and $200 per month, depending on the size. Photo by Benjamin Delong

“The elevator opens and everyone looks – is it a friend or someone new? And what’s in their locker?”

That’s how member Rick Laver describes the atmosphere at Man & Oak, the private bottle club that opened in downtown Portland in May. Unfamiliar with private bottle clubs, I reached out to Man & Oak’s director, Mike Meir, to see if I could come take a look.

My faithful drinking companion and I headed over to the discreet entrance on Oak Street (of course), where Meir admitted us. (Members are assigned entry fobs.) We took the elevator up a floor and immediately knew that we were in a special place. Sumptuous décor with loads of comfortable seating, walls of exquisitely crafted wooden liquor lockers, and a spacious bar area.

Man & Oak isn’t a private club in the sense of snooty applications and dress codes. “I’d probably be the first person to break the dress code if we had one,” laughed Meir. Wannabe members simply pay a monthly fee (minimum of three months) for a locker where they store their favorite bottles. Man & Oak supplies everything else: glassware, ice (including those fabulous large square ice cubes), lemons, limes, tools, syrups, bitters, olives, cherries and more. They have everything you could think of and then some.

I had thought that might be the best part about the experience, but I soon realized that what makes Man & Oak unique is the convivial atmosphere the space generates. People are constantly exchanging sips of whatever they brought, and you leave knowing far more people than you did when you walked in.

I chatted with some of the members, most of whom said they come once or twice a week, often to grab a drink before or after having dinner or attending an event in downtown Portland. It’s also a great space to bring guests or dates whom you don’t want to invite to your residence, to entertain a business client, or to come on your own. A $5 per person guest fee applies before 6 p.m.; after 6 p.m. the fee increases to $15 per person.


Chris Lefebvre, who recently moved back to Maine from Florida, joined Man & Oak to meet people. Photo by Angie Bryan

Member Chris Lefebvre, 32, joined as a way of meeting new people when he moved back to Maine from Florida.

“I’ve always been a big bourbon drinker,” said Lefebvre. “I can run up a $45 bar tab easily.” (That’s the monthly fee for a small locker, which holds up to four bottles. Medium lockers, which hold up to six bottles, are $65, and large “showpiece” lockers, which hold up to eight bottles, are $200.)

Lefebvre’s locker is stocked with Buffalo Trace. Member Ian Leslie, 29, stocks his locker with Laphroaig Select and Johnnie Walker Select Rye Cask Finish. Joining “was an easy decision as soon as I saw the place,” said Leslie.

Games like chess are among the amenities provided by Man & Oak. Photo by Angie Bryan

Leslie had three friends with him that day, one of whom joined on the spot and the other two said they were seriously considering it. I understand the pull – I, too, bought a locker before I left that evening. I had a sneaking suspicion that the 310 lockers would soon be sold out. As of early last week, more than 200 of the lockers had been purchased.

Most members fall into the over-45 demographic. Heavily male, as well as several couples. Members are welcome to bring their own food or order in. There are games like cribbage and chess, a large meeting room for rent, and excellent air conditioning. Bathrooms are spacious, clean and beautifully decorated. Meir hopes soon to offer classes.

AC, beautiful surroundings and camaraderie? Sign me up! Oh, wait, I already did.

Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while making as many puns as her editor allows.

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