Holly Nunan reflects fondly on the legacy of Sangillo’s Tavern

Sangillo’s Tavern, a 62-year-old bar located on Hampshire St. in Portland, is closing this weekend:

Sangillo’s Tavern will close this weekend, after the state upheld the city’s denial of a liquor license.

‘We will not appeal the decision,” owner Dana Sangillo said Monday, confirming this is the last week the 62-year-old bar at 18 Hampshire St. will be open.

Sangillo could have appealed the decision by the state Division of Liquor Licensing and Enforcement in Maine District Court.

I asked Holly Nunan, author and overseer of Newz by the Nunz, a Maine music scene report, to reflect on the occasion as she is a big fan of the bar.


As of midnight on February 14th, it is truly last call for alcohol at Sangillo’s Tavern on Hampshire Street in Portland as the beloved watering hole closes for good after 62 years in business. This family-owned institution will serve up its last super-poured cocktails, ice cold beers, chilled Jell-O shots and warm, gooey Hot Pockets one last time as owner Dana Sangillo announced on Monday that he would not be appealing the state liquor board’s decision to deny renewal of the tavern’s liquor license.

The bar was first denied their license about a year ago by the Portland City Council during a vote when the Portland Police Department made claims that the bar was poorly managed and endangered public safety. According to a Department report cops were said to have been called to Sangillo’s 23 times in 2013 with incidents including an assault, multiple fights and a shooting that took place last January after the bar had closed. PPD stated the shooting was in direct connection with an argument that started in the tavern, but as of today no arrests have been made in the incident.

Sangillo’s appealed the city’s vote to deny their liquor license and took steps to alleviate the city’s concerns by beefing up security with door staff and cameras, increasing staff training and even clearing their shelves of two brands of cognac that seemed to be a contributing factor to poor decisions and bad behavior (Hennessy and Remy Martin). But despite all of these efforts it wasn’t enough for the city and state to see the benefits of renewing this iconic dive bar’s liquor license.

To me this seems to be not so much a matter of safety, but of politics. I think the individuals in charge of making the call to deny renewal of Sangillo’s liquor license have a pretty different view of what Portland and its bars should look like. Never have I ever felt unsafe or uneasy when I’ve visited Sangillo’s on a Friday night with some of my best friends to drink some beers, crank some Scorpions on the jukebox, and maybe even score some butts out of the vending machine. Even after the shooting incident last January I never equated Sangillo’s to a scary or endangering environment.

Sangillo’s is one of those hole-in-the-wall dive bars where you come as you are, have a drink and hang the frig out. There are no pretensions or expectations and all are welcome. I’m truly saddened to see the closure of this beloved bar, but as my best pal and drinking buddy Kurt Baker said, “Let’s hold on to the memories… Sangillo’s will be a place that we’ll never forget about times we’ll never remember!”

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.