Bartender Emily Campobasso talks with patrons at the Commercial Street Pub as the Red Sox play on the televisions in the background on opening day on Thursday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Steven Briggs would normally head to a sports bar to watch the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day, but with fewer of those in downtown Portland than there used to be, he had to make do Thursday afternoon.

Surrounded by 10 screens carrying the Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles, other baseball games and a golf tournament, Briggs settled in at the Commercial Street Pub for the first game of the season.

“For the most part, I go to sit at a bar where there’s TVs on with sports,” he said. So even though most people don’t necessarily think of the Commercial Street Pub as a sports bar per se, it fit Briggs’ definition just fine.

Briggs and other fans have seen their downtown sports bar options dwindle in recent years. Two of downtown’s best known sports bars have closed in just the past two years.

Rivalries closed its Cotton Street location last month after two decades in business.

Binga’s Stadium, once located directly across from Cross Insurance Arena, closed two years ago, although it plans to reopen on Forest Avenue at some point, according to its website.


Erik Carlstrom said he enjoyed watching games at Binga’s, where the TV sets were set just 5 feet apart. He instead settled in at Three Dollar Dewey’s on Commercial Street to watch the start of what turned out to be the Sox’ 10-9 Opening Day loss.

“The options are getting smaller,” Carlstrom said. His theory about the scarcity of downtown sports bars included a familiar villain.

He blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for killing off sports bars.

Steve Briggs of Gorham claps as he watches the Red Sox on opening day at the Commercial St. Pub in Portland on Thursday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Other bars and restaurants could pivot to takeout during the early days of the pandemic, Carlstrom said, but the rowdy, crowded sports bar atmosphere can’t be packaged up for home consumption.

Troy Locke and Kevin McPhee also had to find a new place to watch the game and they, too, settled on Dewey’s, catching the pregame ceremonies before moving on.

The two, who say they have an enviable 27-1 record when they attend Red Sox games in person, agreed that the downtown options for watching the Sox and grabbing a beer have dwindled.


Owen MacDonald of South Portland said he tries to rekindle that spirit at the Commercial Street Pub, where he is a customer but also helps pick what’s on the bar’s TV sets.

He said he mostly picks games featuring Boston teams, but tries to give patrons a few options. Thursday, for instance, he had the New York Yankees-San Francisco Giants game for any wayward Yankees fan who might wander in, along with the Milwaukee Brewers-Chicago Cubs, as well as the opening round of the Valero Texas Open golf tournament.

MacDonald said he wasn’t sure the golf tournament would draw many viewers, but he enjoys golf and exercised his prerogative as the wielder of the bar’s clickers.

MacDonald said he used to go to Rivalries frequently before the downtown location closed, but has now shifted to the Commercial Street Pub.

His philosophy is to “get every possible game we can get” on the screens and he knows his market.

“We’re definitely more busy when the Boston teams play,” he said, adding that that won’t entirely squeeze out the golf.

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