Carrie Doughty brings a tray of drinks to a table at Old Port Tavern on Thursday. The long-time Old Port staple will be closing after New Year’s Eve. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Portland’s Old Port will lose one of its oldest and most popular businesses Saturday.

The Old Port Tavern on Moulton Street will close its doors on Saturday night, New Year’s Eve, ending a 50-year stay in the heart of a waterfront district known for its lively nightlife and plethora of dining options.

Housed in the basement of the historic Mariners Church Building, the Old Port Tavern opened as a restaurant and bar in 1973. Richard Herrera, 71, and his business partner, Charlie McGee, 75, have operated the tavern for five decades, but have decided to retire after the business serves its last round of drinks Saturday night.

“I am going to miss it, but it’s time for me to go,” Herrera said Thursday in an interview. “We had a great run, and I’ve got to say what a great town this has been to do business in.”

Herrera said he is grateful for the tavern’s loyal customers, who stuck with the tavern through the pandemic.

Several people who have been coming to the tavern for years said they were disappointed at the news. Most said they will miss the memories made there.


“It’s iconic,” Mark Jenkins said of the tavern. Jenkins, who grew up in Maine, was visiting Portland for the holidays. He and his buddy Sean Morrissey were playing pool Thursday night.

“Back in the day, OPT was the place to go to,” Jenkins said. “Everyone knew that. And it is the best billiards hall in Portland.”

Zack Lane shoots pool with his friend at Old Port Tavern Billiards on Thursday. The long-time Old Port staple will be closing on New Year’s Eve. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Morrissey, 53, who lives in Portland, said he will always have fond memories of the tavern, and of the billiard hall where his friend’s wedding reception was held 25 years ago.

“That’s the hardest thing. My memories go way back. OPT was the place to go late night for dancing and live bands,” he said.

Over the years, the Old Port Tavern, which loyal customers affectionately refer to as “OPT,” earned a reputation as a destination for drinks, steaks, and, at night, karaoke and dancing to a disc jockey.

The historic Mariners Church Building opened in 1828 and was designed by the same architect who designed Quincy Market in Boston. The church was saved from demolition in 1969 when the entire block was purchased by C.H. Robinson.


To reach the tavern, customers must walk down a set of stairs off Moulton Street – a short stretch of road paved with cobblestones – that connects with Commercial Street. The entrance is under a sign featuring a partially naked mermaid.

Once inside, customers can choose between a seat at a bar with a fish tank sandwiched between rows of hard liquor, or settle down at a table in one of two spacious rooms.

Located on the third floor, above the bar and restaurant, is Old Port Tavern Billiards, which will remain open, Herrera said.

Customers eat dinner at Old Port Tavern on Thursday. The long-time Old Port staple will be closing after New Year’s Eve. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Herrera and McGee sold Old Port Tavern to the Cianchette Group Dec. 15 for an undisclosed amount. Herrera said the real estate company purchased the rights to the Old Port Tavern’s name as well as the four-story building that houses the restaurant, billiard hall, and the Mariners Church Event Center.

It was not immediately clear what may take the tavern’s place.

Herrera and McGee had already planned to sell the business before the pandemic hit – they even had a deal in the works with another area restaurateur in early 2020, but it fell through when COVID-19 threw the hospitality industry into chaos.


Despite a few early offers from “bottom feeders,” trying to scoop up restaurant real estate on the cheap, Herrera said, people had started to take notice of the tavern recently, and potential buyers made better offers.

The pandemic only solidified the decision to close, Herrera said. Staffing, which was already a challenge, became even more difficult. People retired early or went back to old careers or new pursuits that took them out of the restaurant industry.

The tavern was already closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, not because there wasn’t enough business, Herrera said, but because there wasn’t enough staff. He estimated the tavern has about 25 employees.

Ferrera said he had hoped to keep this weekend’s closure low-key. Herrera and McGee contacted a few people to let them know, but otherwise, the two wanted to walk away without fuss or fanfare.

Zack Lane of Portland was relieved to learn the billiards hall will remain open, but said he will miss the tavern’s atmosphere – he has been coming for years.

“Karaoke on Thursday nights and those fish tanks will live on in my memory forever,” he said.

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