In recent years, downtown Orono has seen many changes in its nightlife scene. The Family Dog, a restaurant with a bar and new deck balcony, hopes to expand with an outdoor area by the end of November.
Owner Bob Cutler says he hopes the expansion will be done after Thanksgiving.
Cutler opened the Family Dog in November 2012, and says that there have been 27 months of constant growth in the restaurant, which Cutler added “is pretty awesome.” The current deck opened in June 2014.
Cutler explained that after the restaurant opened the deck, people began flooding in.
“The public response we got from students and locals was far better than we expected,” Cutler said.
The Family Dog, like many other Orono businesses, has made an effort to appeal to University of Maine students as well as Orono residents.
“Since we opened, we added ice cream, coffee and breakfast until 2 p.m. on weekends,” Cutler said.
Starting with just beer for alcoholic beverages, the restaurant has added spirits and wine to the menu. The expansion will include a full bar.
“The students have responded really well to our breakfast until 2 p.m., that has been really great,” Cutler added.
The 2,200-square-foot expansion will include grass with a stone fireplace and a structure with a full bar outside in front of the deck. The space will have a 300-person standing capacity.
“We are going to have a lot of standing and social space,” Cutler said of the new expansion.
Cutler also hopes to include lawn games and a big screen for showing films, and possibly even sports games. He also hopes to have bands above the lawn area on the deck for performances.
The Family Dog currently has local musicians that perform live every Saturday and Sunday during brunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“This will give us an opportunity to do things at night,” Cutler added.
The new area will take over the parking lot area that has a treacherous hill, which Cutler explained made the fire department and police more accepting of the expansion, as it will actually increase safety.
Cutler also assured that while many people are concerned that the expansion will take away parking spaces, the seven spaces lost in the upper lot will be added to the lower lot instead.
Additionally, Cutler mentioned that he thought the new addition would make the restaurant itself look more appealing.
This is just the next phase of growth for the restaurant already well-known for its food. The Family Dog recently opened food trucks in Bangor over the summer, which will spend the winter at Sugarloaf. In the past year, the restaurant also won awards for the best French fries, best burger and best vegetarian options in the Greater Bangor area.
The Family Dog has also partnered with numerous student organizations from the University of Maine to reach out to the college community, and hopes that students will be pleased by the new addition to the current space.
However, they have not just appealed to UMaine students, as Cutler explained that the summer months have greatly improved for business.
They will be updating through their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about the building progress through November.
Although the expansion will be opening at the start of the winter season, Cutler has no plans to wait until warmer weather to begin festivities. He mentioned that this winter he plans to have an ice bar in the space, as well as maybe some giveaways to Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, where the food trucks are located. He hopes to screen some movies or the Super Bowl in the space, which is to be equipped with heaters and a fire pit.
Cutler also added that if anyone is curious about the expansion, they are welcome to stop into The Family Dog and view the architectural plans and ask any questions.
Cutler hopes that this new expansion will draw people from Old Town and Bangor to consider coming to Orono for a night out.
“Hopefully it will bring more people to the downtown area,” Cutler said. “I think it’s going to be huge for downtown Orono.”