Warden's Bar & Grill

MaineList Article: Warden's Bar & Grill in Lewiston

Wardens Bar & Grill

Wardens Bar & Grill

I spent the past couple of weekends hanging out at “Warden’s Bar & Grill” in Lewiston, Maine, focusing a lot of my attention towards customers, meeting new friends, taking photographs, and I even had the opportunity to perform a one-hour show opening for “Taste of Metal” on a Saturday night. I was able to sit and talk with “Virginia Gagne”, the owner of Warden’s Bar & Grill, who everyone lovingly knows as either “Jenny” or her accepted nickname “Warden”. During our discussions, I was able to learn more about the venue, it’s history, reputation and the people that frequent her bar.

Jenny & StaceyOne of the first things I noticed while walking into the place was the warm greetings I received at the door. I saw lots of friendly folks chatting, and picked up on a vibe that made me feel instantly welcome.

Looking around the room, my eyes were immediately drawn towards it’s décor, an assortment of Harley Davidson collectible items including a cool Harley Davidson bicycle hanging on the wall. My eyes also found a display cabinet consisting of a wide variety of shot glasses.

As I continued scanning around the room, I saw the typical wall hangings you’d expect from any bar, neon beer signs, billiard signs, and so on. From the door it was easy to spot a couple of pool tables, and even a fooseball table, which being a fooseball player myself, I was happy to see the table actually being used.

Twisted Roots

During my first night at Warden’s, I had an agenda to catch up with one of my favorite Maine original bands, “Twisted Roots”, who were performing there that evening. I was excited for the band with their upcoming performance with “Ozzy Osbourne” at the “Cumberland County Civic Center” in Portland. I came prepared to interview the band, fully equipped with notepad and camera in hand.

In the KitchenSince I showed up fairly early, I had the chance to chat with Jenny while she finished up in the kitchen. I was able to enjoy a basket of chicken tenders with a tasty dipping sauce and a cold beverage before the band showed up to setup for their gig. Jenny and I spent some time talking in the kitchen, where I began to gather some notes and meet some of the bar’s regular patrons and employees.

Warden’s Bar & Grill is named from Jenny’s own personal nickname “Warden”, which she picked up long ago by a friend who accused her of sounding like a jail warden. It’s a nickname she’s been responding to proudly for over 15 years. With nearly 30 years of riding motorcycles alongside her husband “Neal”, it’s not surprising to have developed a biker-friendly nickname, humorously associated with jails.

Good Times at Warden's“We have seven pool league teams out of here who have all contributed to that same theme with their own league’s names.” Says Warden, pleased to outline the intention of the cheeky jail theme of their names. “The Chain Gang”, “Executioners”, “Straight Shooters”, “Jail Breakers”,”Balls & Chains”, “Enforcers”, and “Lifers” are all named for Warden’s own nickname theme. This also goes to show how close each of her regular customers seem to be with the owner.

I spoke with a couple of pool players who helped reinforce my assumptions. One player, “Dave Hall” overheard us talking about the leagues and quickly made his own shameless plug; “The Enforcers are the cream of the crop!” Dave shouted, displaying a friendly, somewhat comedic competitive nature for his own league.

New FriendsAs the evening began to unfold, I began meeting lots of interesting people, exchanging myspace addresses and socializing with them as I made my way around the room.

I made a new friend while hanging out too, “Michelle” says she plays pool every Wednesday at Warden’s. “It’s like home. Like walking into Jenny’s living room or kitchen.” Michelle was hanging out with or around “Thrust 13” when we first met, who happened to be opening for Twisted Roots that evening. She was showing her appreciation for both the bar and for local music. “In a way, it kind of reminds me of “Cheers” a little too!” She explained.

Stacey keeping busyThe bar was tended by Stacey, an adorable young bartender who kept rather busy serving drinks for the steady flow of thirsty guests. While trying to photograph Stacey, I eventually had to ask her to pause for a moment because all of my photographs were coming out blurry from her rapid movements back and forth between customer’s orders.

Stacey seemed pleasant to talk with, although it would have been difficult to interview her over the rush of patrons and the echoing tones from the bands who kept the energy flowing throughout the night.

Thrust 13

Thrust 13 put on a pretty good show as they opened for Twisted Roots too. I have been friends with “Steve Libby” for about 15 years. I first knew Libby as a guitar player back in the 90’s, so I was excited to see him shouting out lyrics and entertaining a crowd as the band’s front-man vocalist.

I also remember “Doug Wood” from the music scene during his involvement with “Rotors To Rust” many years ago. “James Leonard”, the band’s guitarist for Thrust 13 brought my memories back too, remembering when he played with “Cradle To Grave” and “Boomslang”.

Nikko, Jenny & ChurchI was also delighted to see “Steve Church”, bassist for “Dead Season” hanging out with Thrust 13 to show some support for the band as well as for Warden’s. Church considers Warden's to be a somewhat regular stomping ground. “I find myself hanging out here sometimes when I’m not busy with my own gigs.” Explained Church who also happened to be a member of “Cradle To Grave” as well as “Boomslang” alongside his friends James and Libby.

Another familiar face was “Nikko”, the drummer from “Civil Disturbance” who seemed to be mixed into the crowd of Thrust 13, Twisted Roots and friends.

Pete GiordanoDuring my interview with “Pete Giordano”, vocalist / front-man for Twisted Roots, Pete made some kind remarks towards the bar too. “We love Warden’s! It’s a good place, filled with good people, and great food!”

Pete was thoughtful enough to suggest that I try the food too, and not limit my experience to just the music and booze. “Warden’s is a classy place compared to a lot of other bars we tend to play at. It’s the way a bar should be!”

Warden’s only added the kitchen about four years ago when the bar changed names from it’s previous owners who ran the place as “CJ’s” before. With the new kitchen, and new management, the place has pulled a complete 360 degree turnaround.

Now, with the impressive menu of items like burgers, pizza, chicken tenders, wings, mozzarella sticks, poppers, onion rings, french fries, salads, subs and pasta, Wardens is able to cater to customers as both an evening restaurant as well as a reputable and safe night time music venue.

Bands love playing at Warden’s due to it’s trouble-free atmosphere. Patrons seem to express their appreciation with friendly faces and acceptable social behavior. This helps keep the place feeling like home, encouraging new friends into the scene.

Caveman & Jenny“It’s great up here.” Shouted a tattooed fellow who introduced himself as; “Caveman”. “It’s a blast! Good publicity too!” Caveman tattoos for “5150 Artwork” in Lewiston and frequents the bar as a regular member of the ‘family’ environment. His warm-hearted humor was immediately recognized when he made a comment about Warden’s nickname. “The last Warden I had, locked me up and put me in isolation. So this is the Warden that I like!” Caveman razzed, in an effort to break the ice.

I met a gentleman who I was introduced to as “The Smooth” from “The Build Motorcycle Television” aired statewide by Time/Warner Cable. “Warden’s is the best motorcycle friendly bar in Maine. They book the best entertainment that Maine has to offer.” Says “The Smooth”, with a reassuring expression of confidence.

DJ Bob, Jenny, and ShawnaJenny introduced me to “DJ Bob” too, who has regular Thursday / Friday shows at Warden’s. Bob tried breaking down his typical song selection saying; “I play a lot of stuff that you might hear on WTOS.”

DJ Bob tries to show support for local music too by including some of Maine’s original bands into his mix as well. Bob happened to be hanging out during my own performance while opening for “Taste of Metal”, and came across as another strong supporter for the local music scene.

“Dead Season” and “Strict9” are two of Warden’s biggest sensations. “I’ve never seen either band come short of selling out the room when they book shows here.” Says Jenny who, as a business owner, seems grateful to have a roomful of customers.

Marc DerapsAfter making her accusation, I remembered running into “Marc Deraps”, former bass player for Strict9 hanging out during the Roots show last weekend at Warden’s.

Marc mentioned that he’s currently working towards putting together a new project with “Scott Labbe”, former front-man for “Uncle Jack”, a band that was very popular in the Lewiston area over ten years ago.

Warden’s is a socially rich environment where everyone seems to know each other in one way or another. It seems to be an acceptable hang-out for bikers, band members, or whoever enjoys the company of either of those social circles.

Friendly Guests

Friendly Guests

Supporting Local Music

Supporting Local Music

Warden’s doesn’t cater specifically to cover or original bands in particular. Jenny has had many cover bands from all over the State of Maine performing Classic Rock, Rock, Alternative and Metal music as well as some of Maine’s best performing original acts.

It’s great to see a place so driven to support the music scene with a family of guests who are motivated to help show their support by attending the ongoing weekend bookings that the club has to offer.

Taste of Metal

Taste of Metal

Audience Support

A couple of noteworthy discoveries I picked up during my two-weekend visit;

Warden’s offers a FREE Tipsy Taxi shuttle service provided by Jenny, her husband, and staff in an effort to help get friends home safely. She also offers FREE bottled water, which she keeps in a cooler for anyone to help themselves to anytime.

Jenny and her staff work hard to keep up a good reputation by helping to resolve fights before they happen by paying attention to guests, and often helping to resolve whatever conflicts can occur before things ever get out of hand. “People consider our place as if it where their home away from home, so we really try to help prevent things from getting out of control. We want people to shake hands, and strongly discourage fighting.” She explains, proud to run a bar that simply doesn’t get negative press exposure.

Sonny & LibbyWarden’s has made numerous efforts to try and make a difference in the community with various fund-raisers for fire and cancer victims.

“We did a fund raiser through the “Make A Wish Foundation”, and this past holiday season we gave a Christmas to six Lewiston / Sabattus kids as well!” Which Jenny was happy to confess. “It was awesome to help those families during a time in their own personal lives where they really needed it the most.”

Jenny saw an entire community of people help contribute by donating their own gifts under the tree for the children.

Billy McDaniel ~ Hard Rock AcousticFinally, to recap my own personal experience as a performer at Warden’s, my show ended up being awesome! There might have been between 50 and 80 people watching as I opened for “Taste of Metal” that evening.

It felt nice to perform my set before an audience of people interested in hearing something new to their own ears. At first, I thought my show would feel out of place, considering I do a solo act featuring Hard Rock songs reconstructed for solo acoustic, yet I received many compliments for my performance.

One guy told me; “I have a lot of respect for you going up there and singing all by yourself. You did a really great job man, I salute you!” I could only smile in appreciation and hope that Warden’s books me again someday.


Twisted Roots "Calling Down The Moon"

Billy McDaniel ~ Hard Rock Acoustic "Fight For Your Right To Party!"


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