Andy’s Old Port Pub
94 Commercial St.
Well, you asked for it, you got it – another episode of Bud Pounder: Bar Detective. In this installment, Bud is roused from retirement to report on Andy’s Old Port Pub, formerly Nappi’s Bar & Grill, down on the gritty, foggy, fragrant waterfront of Portland…
It was a clammy June night on Portland Harbor, about a week before the tourists and mosquitoes started bitin’. Me and Frenchy were at the bar, drinking on the job again.
The place is called Andy’s – Andy’s Old Port Pub. It was Nappi’s for years, a pizza and pool joint popular with the fish-killers who drink down on Commercial Street, but a couple from Diamond Cove took it over a few months back.
Now, Diamond Cove ain’t the type of neighborhood you stumble home to after a night at Nappi’s – not unless you wash ashore, in which case you’ll be corralled by golf carts and Tasered into submission by goons in black jogging suits carrying AARP cards. (At least, that’s what happened to one shlub I know. Poor bastard still gets twitchy every time The Golden Girls comes on. And the worst part: He actually lives there.)
Anyways, I figure that’s why I got the call. After the Cake job, the boss figures I’m the go-to guy for the skinny on Old Port bars with new proprietors claiming to fancy-up the place.
I tried to duck the gig. “I’m retired,” I told him. “Leaving tomorrow on an international cruise.” But I may as well have been selling “artist condos” in the Arts District – he wasn’t buyin’ it. And truth be told, I was blowin’ five Benjamins a week arm-wrestling slot machines on the CAT boat to Canada. I needed the scratch.
Andy’s is between Gilbert’s and Casco Variety. Remember that, kid, ’cause at night the place disappears like a shadow in the dark. They put a sandwich board out to trip up the tourists, but you can’t see any signs from the sidewalk, and the front window’s dimmer than a bachelor party at Styxx.
You go in through a solid metal door with the name in script and a cherry stenciled on it. This cherry’s your first clue to what type of joint you’ll find inside – a place with class, where the bartender puts fruit in your cocktail instead of her finger.
Andy’s has a “no tolerance policy for nasty drunks, druggies or any form or verbal or physical violence.” That’s what the owners told the suits in City Hall when they applied for their booze license. “We don’t want our customers to feel they need to get dressed up to go to Andy’s Pub,” they wrote in this letter. “But if our customers were already dressed up, we don’t want them to feel self-conscious either.”
That last bit’s tricky: How do you get people in a bar to feel less self-conscious without getting drunk, especially if they’re all dolled-up? Ever been to a wedding reception, bub?
Andy’s pulls this trick off easy. The solution: Be Rosie’s.
Picture Rosie’s with a pool table instead of two dart boards and half the menu. The staff is cool, the grub is good, the two TVs shut up ’til game time. Now turn the bar lights up a notch too high and the juke down a touch too low.
Welcome to Andy’s, pal! Help yourself to some popcorn.
The bit about banning “drunks” and “druggies” and “verbal violence” is a tougher nut, especially for a waterfront bar paying Old Port rent. The fishermen who frequent Andy’s don’t swear or spend money like drunken sailors – they aredrunken sailors. And some of them, sad to say, are also on the dope.
Like the character Frenchy and I met down there on this clammy night in June. We could hear him at the end of bar talking up two dames, dropping F-bombs like Kissinger over Cambodia. The chicks didn’t seem to mind – they knew this clown and were hip to his routine. When he walked ’em out the door and tried to play Romeo, the reply wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, but “get thee to your baby-momma” sums it up pretty well.
Frenchy and I watched this little drama play out on the sidewalk from behind a “smoke screen” – that’s the bar detective term for spying on someone outside an establishment under the pretext of having a smoke. Unfortunately, these screens don’t make you invisible, and Romeo, fresh from this rejection, zeroed in on us.
“Hey, you guys do drugs?” He asked this by way of introduction, the way other strung-out strangers hit you up for a butt on the street.
Now, a professional bar investigator working undercover has to weigh the scene carefully before answering a question like this – all the more so now that the Portland heat are muscling in on the bar snooping racket. But something tipped us off that this was no pig in a blanket: Kisssinger had the kind of runny nose you don’t get from hot wings or a head cold.
This hammerhead was fresh off the trawler and higher than a pro cyclist in the Pyrenees. He was bent on bringing us with him to Mt. Snow, but we kept telling him we didn’t ski. What he was really after was cover, a stooge to play lookout while he snorted his Peruvian Pixy Stix. Sure enough, when we went back in, Kissinger tailed us. He got Frenchy cornered in the men’s room and cajoled him into standing by the door while he vacuumed two lines off the tank.
Frenchy was more fascinated than intimidated by this character, and other than the damage done to his own septum and the rules of English syntax, Kissinger was harmless. Still, the editor sent us back several times to find out if he’s a regular or if his baby-momma put a permanent hole in his boat. We haven’t seen him since. I figure the proprietors got wise to this joker with the toilet tongue and leaky pipes, just like those dames did, and applied their policy accordingly.
If there’s crime at Andy’s, it’s the slice-and-draft special for just $4.50 – when you can get pizza this good and a pint of Bass or Allagash for less than a fin with tip, it feels like you’re stealing from them.
— Chris Busby
Andy’s is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight or so. They serve food until 10:30 p.m.