Mr.Goodbars in Old Orchard Beach

MaineList Article: Mr.Goodbars (Old Orchard Beach)

Mr.Goodbars in Old Orchard BeachThere’s something about Old Orchard Beach in the summertime. Vacationers from all over New England and Canada seem to flock to this place year after year, somewhat bedazzled by the festive atmosphere of the heavily commercialized downtown square. Anyone new to our little tourist trap will immediately wander towards the beach and discover The Pier for its visual appeal. Seasoned travelers who frequent the bars in-town often find that there are many other hot spots in the area for entertainment too.

Most people who go out have one particular place that they consider home turf. For me, it’s Mr.Goodbars in Old Orchard Beach. Whenever I have a weekend to myself in the summer, I like to check-in with the staff, hang-out and dance with friends, check out the live music, and always look forward to meeting new people in what I would consider a friendly bar-room environment.

Recent Renovations at Mr.GoodbarsA lot of people have been talking about Mr.Goodbars lately due to some mind-boggling alterations that have recently transpired.

For starters, the bar has moved from its long-term residence above “Riptide”, just across from the Pirate Ship attraction at “Palace Playland” to its new, larger home, across the street from the new “Grand Victorian Hotel”. But that’s only where the conversation begins. The work that has gone into the re-construction is blowing people away.

The new bar has taken over the rent where “Club Mirage” was last year. They completely re-designed the layout, relocated and optimized the stage, improved the bar to accommodate their anticipated capacity of guests, added more seating, a spacious patio for smokers, a new VIP Lounge, a kitchen that stays open all night, and have carried their loyal customer-base along with them making the new club a definite choice for rock entertainment.

Gina MartinezI sat and talked with Gina Martinez, owner of Mr.Goodbars, to find out how she brought what was once a small, almost unnoticeable bar, into the flourishing club that it has become today.

Gina started our conversation by talking about the daily Snafu of running her business. “I have to keep a sense of humor, even when things go wrong.” She said.

She had just finished telling me a story involving some equipment that unexpectedly broke, spraying a gooey mess all over the place, and then shortly afterwards having a mishap with the dishwasher, which seemed to unload hot water atop the sticky syrup that exploded earlier.

“Sometimes people will say to me… Wow! You own a bar? But I often say… No. I own a liquor license coupled with lots and lots of responsibilities!” It’s evident that Gina’s responsibilities are heavy, as you watch her running around. You also get the sense that she wouldn’t have it any other way. Burdened with responsibilities or not, she clearly loves what she is doing.

A Family Tradition“My mom ran a night-club for twenty-five years.” Gina delved back in time to fetch some memories of her childhood. “Back then, there weren’t rules like ‘No kids in bars’. I used to help cut limes, it was a family thing. But everything has changed since then.”

Gina’s mother, Josie Ciulla actually sat at the bar socializing with her own friends, while Gina and I chatted in the office. Gina has both her son and daughter, Dustin and Ariane, working around the bar too, carrying on the family tradition.

Family and Staff“I started working at ‘Soho’s’ in 1999 then transferred to ‘JJ’s Eatery’ shortly afterwards. Sometime in 2002 Gina asked herself; why can’t I do this for myself? I could do this! She had originally wanted to open a Bed-n-Breakfast, thinking how nice it would be.

“You gotta do everything though, from plunging toilets to fixing everything that goes wrong. You clean up other people’s vomit, you find yourself climbing in dumpsters, or doing things that any normal person shouldn’t ever want to do.” Gina never imagined how much work it would be, or the costs involved with her picturesque career.

Mr.Goodbars currently has twenty-four people on staff, including the kitchen. “I’m a big stickler for security, for safety reasons.” Gina’s concern is to avoid any physical conflicts usually associated with bars. You could expect a drunken dispute at any busy rock venue, but in a place filled with so many friends, and a knowledgeable security staff, those types of activities can be easily resolved.

Sponsorship Coupon

Gina & JohnnyThe club caters to people interested in live rock cover-bands. Goodbars tries to book some of Maine’s best rock acts, and proudly includes “Riot Act” as their house band. But there’s more to this union than meets the eye.

If you know Gina, then you ought to be aware that Gina and Johnny Jam, front-man for the highly successful rock cover-band “Riot Act”, are actually married. Yet, Riot Act has been the house band longer than their relationship.

I find it interesting to know that Riot Act actually started their Maine-based rock career in the very building where Mr.Goodbars now resides. Back then, it was known as “Porky’s” and was one of the area’s top venues for live rock entertainment. It’s not surprising that Gina decided to pickup the rent after Club Mirage closed its doors. The room is much bigger, and is on the first floor, which is a big improvement over Goodbars’ previous location.

Love at First SightGina and Johnny didn’t meet at a Riot Act show, as a lot of people might have suspected. In fact, their original involvement was not music-related at all. “I didn’t even know he was a musician!” Gina explained.

“I thought he was sexy, and my friend said he looked like a biker. When I introduced myself to him, I told Johnny that he was my Antonio Banderas.” Their 1999 meeting led to a nice little romance back in 1999. “It was my first date in about twelve years.” She admitted, as she continued exploring her past.

She didn’t want to be known as one of those girls who chase musicians. So she made efforts not to continuously attend his shows. Through the years, they discovered many areas of common ground, with similar interests in kids, business and issues in life.

Maintaining a friendship, more than any certainties in romance, they continued learning from one another and growing together. Gina encouraged Johnny to try and motivate the crowd to pay attention to each other, to get to know one another. And by Johnny’s own words, often heard over the microphone, you can hear him shouting out to the crowd to introduce yourself to the person standing next to you, often enticing his audience to always leave invitations open to new guests.

Business or Pleasure?

This family-building attitude has surely been helpful in keeping the audience’s interests. I feel that it’s this behavior alone that has helped inspire “me” to keep coming around.

“Jam is actually my business partner. He is a legitimate stock-holding partner who actually paid his way into the bar.” Gina said. “A lot of people seem to wonder about that, but he did pay a considerable amount of money to buy out my previous partner.”

Johnny JamJohnny’s involvement with the bar is not an act of kindness, as much as many people might think. This is not the result of a romance. Gina and Johnny are business professionals who always think of their career first. Riot Act’s involvement with the bar is not an act of favoritism so much as an intelligent business proposal made between both parties.

It seems to make sense when you look back at it, after the fact. Two businesses that need each other, bar owner and band. The marriage between the two careers is perfect, and it seems that their romantic interests have also prospered.

“Before Johnny invested his own hard-earned money into the bar, he actually tended bar for a while.” Gina approached him about becoming partners later on.

So in 2004, Johnny became an official partner, while their relationship gradually and casually shaped, from a ‘friends with benefits’ situation, to a full pledged marriage.

A Lifetime in the Hospitality Business“I’ve been in the hospitality business all of my life. I’m a licensed Dietetic Technician with a two-year degree, as well as a degree in Culinary Arts and Business Management.” Gina continued to explain.

Despite the initial obstacles of getting started with her own business, Gina’s will found a way. At one point, while still working for the other bar, Jo and Renald Ayotte, owners of Riptide, offered to allow her to open up Mr.Goodbars as her own business.

“I had to keep the name in order to keep the liquor license. At that time, Old Orchard was not giving out any new licenses, so keeping the name unchanged was one way to open my own bar while dealing with those restrictions.

The bar was originally named for a classic 1977 film named; “Looking for Mr.Goodbar”, and not for the candy bar, as I often wondered. Although she had nothing to do with the naming of her establishment, she has carried on without reluctance. It’s a name that has stuck, and the people who frequent her bar have come to know it.

RampageMr.Goodbars kicked off the new location on April 3rd with a special performance of youthful rockers from Loranger Middle School in Old Orchard. “Rampage” became the first band to christen the new stage as an opening act to Riot Act. The three teenage band-members had a full set of classic 80’s rock songs, including unsuspecting covers by bands such as “Rush” and “Ozzy” to name a few. They did a great job as they performed before a full-house of anxious guests.

Band members; “Cody Perrone”, “Cody Hacket” and “James Strombus”, whom Gina refers to as “Jelly Bean” brought the evening to life while Johnny sat in on vocals. It was an evening to remember for everyone, bands, guests, and staff alike.

There’s a bit of story behind why Rampage was invited to perform on opening night. “For the past three years, we’ve been donating our bottles to the school’s music program.” Apparently Johnny has gotten pretty involved with the school’s career day, and has built some ties with the school.

“I had told the boys from the band a while back, that if they learned ‘Crazy Train’, I would put them on stage.” She chuckled. Well, needless to say, they earned their performance, and everyone seemed to be pleased with the outcome.

Gina and Nancy ChagnonThe bar is looking forward to the competitive summer season, and is collectively crossing their fingers as the summer unfolds. With an awesome stage, great live music, a gorgeous bar and a grill serving panini sandwiches until closing, it shouldn’t be difficult to compete.

“I just wanted to say that I couldn’t have done anything without the help of my two best friends, Mary Beth ‘Valentine’ and Nancy ‘Nano’ Chagnon.” Gina said, in her closing remarks as she hastily excused herself to get back to work.

Gina is a very hard working woman who has risen above the numerous doubters along the way. Through self-determination, strong family ties, loyal friendships, and a wonderful relationship with her loving partner, she has shown us all the importance of love, even while doing business.


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