After 49 years, South Portland tavern The Griffin Club closes

They weren’t exactly crying in their beers, but they were sulking.

Wednesday afternoon, hours before the last bottle of beer will be poured at The Griffin Club on Ocean Avenue in South Portland, regulars gathered to toast the end of an era at the tavern, which has been a Knightville neighborhood fixture since 1968. “Eddie Griffin was a sweet man,” said Mike Afthim, who once bartended for Griffin, a community hero who died in 1993.

Though the SoPo resident had not been in the bar for three years, he took his son and brother today. “I wanted to come on the last day to pay a tribute to Eddie Griffin and all the memories left behind here,” he said.

Patron Mike Afthim of South Portland.

The house-turned-bar that’s witnessed countless juke boxes, pool games, darts and even Boston Celtics greats like Dave Cowens, has been sold by the club’s landlord to make way for a redevelopment project. Club owner Scott Parker, loading in cases of beer, was too tired and broken up to talk about it.

“I hate to see it all go,” he said. “I want to thank all the patrons for their patronage and say God Bless,” said Parker.

He still owns the grainy photos of Larry Bird and Ted Williams, and the trappings that gives this local institution its pulse, but does not have a new home. “I’m talking to real estate agents tonight,” said Parker who hopes to stay in the area and reopen another neighborhood bar.

With the word “gentrification” hanging heavy in the air, employees at the year-old Foulmouthed Brewing a block away, were also glum. Like Sangillo’s in Portland, which closed two years ago, The Griff, was one of the last dive bars in Greater Portland. Its presence helped newcomers like Foulmouthed, that attracts a younger crowd, thrive. 

“The dive bar is like the gin and tonic,” said Foulmouthed bar manager Jeff Hodenberg. “It’s the bartender’s drink of choice.”

The club will be open Wednesday night until the last stuff is poured.

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.