Griffin Club successor gets initial OK from South Portland planners

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Redevelopment plans for the former Griffin Club property in Knightville received preliminary approval Tuesday from the Planning Board. 

The Jan. 9 meeting was the first of two hearings for the proposal. Final approval could come by spring. 

Neighbors of the proposed business generally expressed support for the project and a desire to maintain a good relationship, but had concerns about parking, noise and hours of operation. 

Owner Ginger Cote bought the building at 60 Ocean St. in June for $600,000. She presented preliminary plans for a new, four-story building with a music venue and restaurant called Big Babe’s Tavern on the first floor and five residential condos above.

The tavern will have a lounge area and 47 seats, and be open for lunch and dinner, until midnight. Cote said she will live above the restaurant and has the same desire as her neighbors for a peaceful neighborhood. She assured attendees at the meeting the building will be soundproofed.

The zone is mixed commercial and residential, so a certain amount of activity and noise is expected, Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser  said. But he added the Planning Board can impose reasonable restrictions to minimize noise. 

Cote has already met subdivision standards with the five proposed condominiums, which were reviewed under a preliminary subdivision plan and given initial approval. Separate and more specific plans for the tavern must still go through site plan review. 

Cote has said she plans to demolish the existing 5,800-square-foot, circa-1900 building and rebuild on its footprint. According to a Nov. 28, 2017, application submitted to the board, the project is estimated to cost $2.4 million, and, if approved, construction would begin in the spring. Completion is tentatively expected in the fall.

Mark Mueller Associates of Portland is the designer of the project at the corner of Ocean and C streets.

The plan includes 11 on-site parking spots for residents of the condominiums and employees of the tavern. Patrons are expected to park on Ocean Street and nearby cross streets within a 500-foot radius of the building. An appropriate number of parking spaces must be available for the project and the project can’t cause adverse impacts, according to City Planner Stephen Puleo. 

Puleo said the Planning Board must decide whether the additional 11 spaces needed for the restaurant as required by code can be absorbed on city streets, and will seek a map of available parking spaces from Cote to help make that determination.

Cote, an Aroostook County native, has lived in South Portland for 15 years. She is a professional musician who has toured for 40 years with artists including Bonnie Raitt, Cidny Bullens and Emmylou Harris. She plays guitar and piano, but her main instrument is percussion; she said there is a need for a music scene in the city and additional support for the arts.

Cote said to her, the height of the Griffin Club – which would have turned 50 this year – was when founder Eddie Griffin operated the tavern. Griffin, who died in 1993, was a special person, Cote said, and she purchased the building with the hope of carrying on the spirit of the business through music.

She said there will be a plaque dedicated to Griffin as a tribute and acknowledgment of the building’s history as a boxing club and Irish pub that in its heyday attracted national sports celebrities alongside a local clientele.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at 

A depiction of a four-story building containing Big Babe’s Tavern and residential condos that would replace the former Griffin Club at 60 Ocean St. in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood.

The South Portland Planning Board on Jan. 9 gave preliminary approval to plans for a new restaurant and condominiums at 60 Ocean St., where the Griffin Club previously operated. The plan will come back for final review at a later date.