WATERVILLE — It had been 382 days, but who was counting?

The Chez Paree, after a pandemic-induced closure, reopened Thursday.

“I just want to get to normal, I guess,” said Jodi Langlois, the Water Street bar’s owner. “As normal as it can be. ”

Known to many as “the Chez,” the South End bar closed March 15 at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

After closing, Maine’s bars and tasting rooms, including the Chez, were slated to reopen in early November. However, Gov. Janet Mills delayed the reopenings because of an increasing COVID-19 caseload across the state.

Josh Grenier tests his strength on the punching machine Thursday on the first day back in business at the Chez Paree on Water Street in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Some restaurants rebounded during the summer and fall with outdoor dining, but places like the Chez remained closed. The state’s 9 p.m. curfew, in effect from Nov. 20 through Jan. 31, nullified potential business for the South End institution. Many of the bar’s patrons arrive well into the night, and some of the bar’s employees also work day jobs.


Bars and tasting rooms were allowed to reopen last weekend, but the Chez waited until April 1 to make sure it had all of its licenses in order. Langlois, 30, said she waited to reapply for licenses while the bar was closed to avoid fees that would not make sense to pay.

After a deep cleaning, inspections and securing all licenses last week, Langlois reopened her bar at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Dan Young of Fairfield was the Chez’s first customer. A regular of the bar for five years, Young said he looked forward to returning. He described the people there as “genuine and down to earth.”

“It’s nice to have a place to go,” Young said. “Weather’s breaking and you can get out of the house. Nobody wants to hear about the doom and gloom.”

A regular at the Chez for more than 40 years, Terry Ann Loisel said she found out a month ago her beloved bar was reopening. Although she did not go on opening night, she intends to return soon.

“I’m excited to see people I haven’t seen for a while,” Loisel said.


She said she expects the Chez to be “different,” with COVID-19 precautions in place — including less “mingling” with other patrons.

“I’m one of those people that keeps going person to person, talking to everybody, so it’ll be hard to get used to,” Loisel said. “I don’t know what to expect. It’s going to be different.”

Josh Grenier, center, celebrates the strength of Delia Cat Langlois, 9, left, on the punching machine Thursday at the Chez Paree on Water Street in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

While some indoor tasting rooms and bars opened last week, it does not bother Langlois to open now. The Chez’s owner has everything in place, while opening at the end of March might have been difficult for licenses.

The Chez opens at 2 p.m. on Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. on weekends. Langlois and two of her employees will be working at the bar as they evaluate how many people return.

With coronavirus safety protocols in place, the Chez can now serve 65 patrons at one time. And as part of new licensing rules, the bar must serve food. That means pizza and chicken baskets at the Chez.

Langlois said she is ready and eager to stay open, even if later than expected.

She said she will keep the Chez open until 1 a.m. on weekends, but weeknights are still uncertain.

“If we’re rocking until 1 a.m., we’ll stay rocking until 1 a.m.,” Langlois said. “It depends on the crowds.”

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