Kingman’s, the popular bar and live music venue in Old Town, is shutting its doors for day-to-day operations, according to owner Tim Taylor. Citing a lack of business, Taylor said he has decided to close Kingman’s, keeping it open only for planned events and private party rentals.
“It’s been a pretty rough semester. Business has been extremely slow and what I’ve seen driving the Rage Bus is it hasn’t been that great anywhere except for house parties and The Grove,” said Taylor, who also owns and operates the Rage Bus, which transports bar-goers from Kingman’s in Old Town to Downtown Orono. Taylor says the addition of The Grove, as well as an increase in house parties, have “undoubtedly” affected business.
“There’s more house parties this year than I’ve ever seen, ever,” Taylor said.
While you won’t be able to head to Kingman’s for a casual beer on a Thursday night, there will be times that Kingman’s doors will be open — whether it’s a booked gig or a private party.
“We’re going to be pretty much a venue more or less and having concerts but we’re not going to be open day-to-day,” Taylor said. “We don’t have a big enough draw and there hasn’t been enough attendance even on the bigger shows we’ve had.”
Kingman’s will be available for private parties, with the option of renting either half or the whole of the establishment.
“We’ll be available for private rentals. Depending on what you want to do, it’s $400 per room, so the whole place would be $800 [per night] and that gets you one bartender and a security guard,” Taylor said, “but it costs extra to have the sound system, and the sound tech and the lighting. If it were going to be a big party you’d probably want additional bartenders.”
A change in operations could come with a change in the cosmetics of the bar and according to Taylor, it needs adjustments to maintain profitability.
“It’s gotten to the point where the property needs to do something to be profitable or it’s not going to work,” he said. “We’re going to consolidate and one thing we’re thinking of doing is basically flipping the place around and moving the musical equipment downstairs. It’s a bigger room and what you see right when you walk in.”
Taylor is also thinking about the possibility of scrapping the upstairs entirely and turning it into an apartment, with the venue taking the entire downstairs.
“By us bringing everything downstairs, it gives us the option to possibly redo the upstairs and reorganize it to be something else — I’m just throwing this out there, but maybe turning it into an apartment,” Taylor said.
Taylor insists that Kingman’s is still willing and able to put on events, including electronic duo “The Manhattan Project” later this month.
“We’re probably going to organize a battle of the bands or a DJ battle again. We’ll space them out and try to maximize attendance for each one,” Taylor said.
All this rearranging is bothersome to Lauren Fleury, a fourth-year journalism student and director of WMEB radio station at the University of Maine. WMEB worked closely with Kingman’s over the last year to book and produce shows at the bar. Now, while the radio station will continue to try to book at Kingman’s, it may be logistically difficult.
“It’s not really an issue of it changing our relationship with Kingman’s, but it’s a slight inconvenience of where we’ll put shows on, only because the upstairs is one of the best venues in town for live music,” Fleury said. “Hopefully what will happen is he’ll get it turned around, I plan on booking shows there in the spring.
“What would help Kingman’s is more promotion and more of a tie to the community, which I would like to help out as much as I can and do more shows there,” she added.
Fleury is also disappointed in Kingman’s semi-closing from a customer’s standpoint.
“I frequented that place. I used to live in Old Town and spent a lot of time in Old Town over the summer and I enjoyed it a lot,” she said. “It’s a really casual environment and I’m happy he’s not closing for good and hoping he can turn business around.”
Fleury doesn’t put as much of the blame on The Grove as Taylor did, citing the of-age student population living in Orono as a reason for Kingman’s demise.
“A lot of times, I don’t think it’s one factor or another that causes business to change, I think more specifically, in [Kingman’s] case, is just being a bar in Old Town,” she said. “The commute to Old Town — people a lot of times don’t want to think about how to get to Old Town, plus I think there’s a big 21-plus population in Orono.”
The location of Kingman’s isn’t new to operating inconsistencies, as the bar — formerly known as The Dime — had to close its doors due to a dispute with the owner of the building and Taylor, who was a proprietor at the time. The conflict lasted over a year while Taylor disputed claims for a lease-to-purchase agreement.
It wasn’t until September of last year that The Dime reopened its doors as the rebranded Kingman’s, adding the Rage Bus as a way to get the Orono scene connected with Old Town.