Standard Gastropub owner and head chef William Holmes is pictured here with the Bridgton restaurant’s wall-length refrigerator, which can feature up to 300 different beers on any given day. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

After returning to his hometown of Bridgton from Boston to spend time with his family, a certain property on Main Street kept catching William Holmes’ eye.

“I kept driving by this place. It was an empty gas station up for lease,” Holmes said. “What if you could put a bar or restaurant in a gas station?”

Holmes is the owner and head chef of the Standard Gastropub, which is wrapping up its ninth summer in downtown Bridgton. The business has seen many twists and turns since opening in 2013, from growing pains to surprising booms and a recent shutdown and reopening. It’s forced Holmes to stay on his toes, from implementing a creative marketing strategy to scaling operations to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Standard Gastropub got rid of the gas pumps years ago, but the old gas station sign remains. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

While they no longer pump gas, the Gastropub relied heavily upon the property’s roots for its first five years.

“One of the hardest things about opening a restaurant is getting people in the door,” Holmes said. “If you have gas pumps at your front door, and you can undercut the price of gas by a few pennies, and suddenly your parking lot’s full, you just solved one of the biggest issues.”

The business strategy included purposely losing money on gas, he said, which paid for itself in the form of restaurant customers and eliminating the need for “a bunch of loud advertising.”


“The first summer was incredibly busy. We had a really, really successful first few months,” Holmes said. “But I think, for any business around here, the first winter season is always going to be a little bit of a shock … it’s a very different pace.”

The Gastropub would sometimes only serve a handful of customers per day during the first winter, Holmes said. Bridgton has between 4,000 and 5,000 year-round residents, according to Angie Cook, director of the Greater Bridgton Chamber of Commerce. However, as a lifelong skier, Holmes spent much of that winter at Shawnee Peak just a 15-minute drive away and “conversed with the ski crowd.”

“Most people, when they get off a mountain, they want a burger, fries and good beer,” he said.

Burgers, fries and beer are staples of the Gastropub, along with house-made dipping sauces. The restaurant features 200 to 300 different beers at any time, displayed in a refrigerator that spans the entire length of one of the building’s walls. While the beer comes from both near and far, food at the Gastropub is locally sourced from farms in Maine.

Holmes brings inspiration to his dishes from his exposure to both regional and foreign cuisine.

“I lived in Boston, so I was exposed to a little more variety in food down there,” he said. “I wanted to bring more of that to this area where I grew up.”


Burgers, fries and beer are the Standard Gastropub’s staples. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

One of the restaurant’s early favorites was the iceberg lettuce wedge, which was cooked on the grill.

“China and Japan and Korea, they will grill or cook or boil lettuce to get different textures and flavors out of it,” Holmes said. “It’s something we haven’t had on the menu for at least five years, and we still get people calling in trying to order it.”

But the restaurant’s bestseller may come as a surprise.

“Our brussels sprouts,” Holmes said. “They’re the only thing that outsells fries, which definitely means something.”

Holmes has been reshuffling the menu since the restaurant’s inception but was forced to completely revamp the business when the pandemic hit in 2020.

“It was obviously a shock,” he said. “But I think, for me, I really enjoy a challenge. Opening businesses, doing this stuff, it’s always a challenge. I just viewed it as that: a new challenge.”


The Gastropub overcame that challenge with flying colors. The restaurant narrowed down its menu to items that would still maintain their quality in a rural takeout format, where “some people are driving 30 minutes with it before they open that box.”

“2020 was actually one of our highest grossing years in business,” Holmes said. “It was amazing to see that kind of support.”

The Gastropub serves many second-home owners, who flock to the lakes region throughout the summer, and Holmes believes that’s what kept them booming throughout the first year of the pandemic.

“We had a lot of our weekend summertime, second-home owner crowd, who makes up a huge part of the population out here,” Holmes said. “This was a safer place than where they lived the rest of the time.”

It gave other businesses in Bridgton a boost, too, said Cook of the Chamber of Commerce.

“We were so saturated with people,” Cook said of the summer of 2020. “You have second-home owners and then people who never really traveled before. They flocked here.”


Bridgton’s population can swell to as much as 30,000 during the summer, Cook said, with summer camps, vacationers, other Mainers making day trips to the region, and second-home owners.

But in March 2022, The Gastropub closed its doors.

“I realized that we needed to hit a hard reset on just about everything,” Holmes said. “We had a bunch of staff that were happy to move onto other stuff … we closed down at the end of March to remodel, renovate, reimagine what we were going to be doing.”

The remodeled restaurant features commissioned artwork, new furniture and new lighting in the wall-long beer refrigerator. However, while they routinely had as many as 20 staff members in pre-pandemic summers, The Gastropub reopened July 1 with just seven employees.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from all of this is you never have a staff shortage if you build something that can scale up and down,” Holmes said. “If we have three people on for the day, we run a certain part of the menu and a certain style. If we have seven people on for the day, we do a bit more.”

The Gastropub is currently open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday. Holmes has been able to double the size of the staff since this summer’s opening and hopes to open six days per week after Labor Day. He also acquired an adjacent property in 2020 that is being turned into an outdoor area with picnic tables and yard games.

“Dogs will be welcome as long as they’re behaved. Same for kids,” Holmes said, before adding with a laugh, “And same for adults.”

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