Orono House of Pizza (OHOP) has been a staple in the town of Orono for students and community members alike since its opening in 2004, and with the beginning of this academic year, the owners of OHOP have added more accomplishments to their list.
OHOP can finally be included in the “night life” aspect of the University of Maine college experience, beyond late-night pizza delivery. Now, students 21 and older can visit OHOP’s most recent add-on: a brand new bar.
Kostas Bazmpas, one of OHOP’s owners, helped open OHOP in 2009 with his sister Irena Bazmpas and has been improving the restaurant ever since.
“It’s two different projects. One is the parking lot and the parking lot is as big as the bar, money-wise and preparation-wise,”Kostas Bazmpas said. “The parking lot was quite costly…we started actually trying to put everything in place two-and-a-half years ago.”
Bazmpas explained that the work put into the parking lot was, at times, more extensive than the preparations to open the bar. Bazmpas cited acquiring the permits and getting the lot professionally excavated and drained as the biggest challenges to the process.
Renovations for these changes began in May and were finished during the end of the summer. The pizza joint was closed for the month of July to help ease the renovation process, which mainly consisted of finishing the parking lot.
The bar had its soft opening on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Every year since its opening, OHOP has seen a steady increase in business from than the year before, allowing the company to flourish. One increase, Bazmpas said, is in employment. OHOP currently employs 65 workers, from delivery drivers and servers to bartenders and kitchen staff.
Bazmpas estimates OHOP saw a 10 percent increase in business from September 2015 to this last September and expects the opening of the bar to add to that percentage.
“We try to keep it on a classy level, [which is] why we’re putting some specials [on the menu]. They’re not too, too aggressive, they’re pretty good specials. Every day we’ll have a different special.”
Tuesday nights, Bazmpas explains, is “industry appreciation night”. Not only will all 65 of his employees be able to enjoy a 50 percent off drink special on that night, but anyone in the greater Bangor area who works at a restaurant will be able to enjoy the same bargain. Bazmpas got the idea from visiting restaurants in San Diego.
As for the theme of the bar, Bazmpas thinks it looks a little like a sports bar, but he’s prepared to let the public decide what kind of space the bar should be.
Some challenges for the new renovations, Bazmpas says, include the now-heavy traffic flow caused by students trying to get on campus in the morning from The Avenue. This traffic has “killed our lunch specials,” according to Bazmpas , but he’s still looking forward to see how this will shape the rest of the year’s business.
Through the challenging renovations, Bazmpas remained proud of how far OHOP has come since the beginning.
“If you go on Google Maps and check how it [OHOP] used to look from outside, you will see a nice picture of what it used to be,” Bazmpas said. “It used to be a pretty beat-down place. And yes, you see the bar now and the — you don’t see the stuff that we have done to the existing building but we’ve done much more to the existing building than that [sic] we’ve done to the addition.”
Bazmpas still prides himself on OHOP’s fast service and he says he’s excited to see how these changes will continue to shape the restaurant.
“I think eventually everybody will embrace it [the renovations]. We will try to bring a quality product in a quality place. We put quite a bit of effort in, we took our time making sure we do this right,” Bazmpas said. “I think eventually people will make it a hot spot.”