CAMDEN — It was one of Maine’s original brew pubs in the 1990s, and now it’s come full circle. Sea Dog Brewing Company is coming back to Camden.
Matt Orne, the owner of Cappy’s Chowder House, which has been a Camden mainstay for the last 37 years, said on Friday, Feb. 26 that the restaurant will close Sunday, Feb. 28, and reopen June 15 as the Camden Sea Dog. Orne, who still owns the property, will lease the business to Sea Dog Brewery.
“There are going to be a lot of improvements, and it is going to be good,” said Orne.
The Sea Dog was initially launched by Peter Camplin Sr. in 1993 in the old Knox Woolen Mill where The Smokestack Grill is now located. Back then, it was a 240-seat brewpub with an onsite small kegging brewery. Its most prominent features were a horseshoe bar reminiscent of “Cheers,” and old mill machinery, such as cogs and shafts, hanging from the ceiling, as well as a back deck overlooking the dramatic waterfall of the Knox Mill Pond. Original patrons of the Sea Dog remember packed happy hours on the deck with waterfall spray in their beers and having to yell over the torrent of water.
In March 1995, Sea Dog opened a 540-seat restaurant and brewery on the banks of the historic Penobscot River in downtown Bangor. In February 2000 Sea Dog opened in South Portland, at the original location where the Saltwater Grill is now located,and in September 2000, a fourth Sea Dog was opened in Topsham.
According to Camplin, in an email Saturday, Feb. 27, the company was sold in May 2001 to a Florida restaurant group. But that fall the Florida company was unsuccessful, filed for bankruptcy protection and soon closed the doors. In December 2002, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Sea Dog to Shipyard Brewing Company’s Fred Forsley and Alan Pygsley, who Camplin called his “good friends.”
In a Bangor Daily News article in 2002, Forsley said: “I know firsthand how much those restaurants are valued by the local communities. The Sea Dog restaurants are an important piece of the Sea Dog brand.”
However, the Camden location was never revived, much to the disappointment of locals, who’d made it their neighborhood hangout for 14 years. Under new ownership, the Sea Dogs in Bangor, South Portland and Topsham have remained, and in 2013 Sea Dog expanded operations in Florida with a brewpub in Orlando. In 2014, another Sea Dog was opened in Florida, in Clearwater, while also expanding to North Conway, N.H.
Penobscot Bay Pilot will update more details of the transition as they develop.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org