WATERVILLE — TJ’s Burgers & Dogs, a summer staple in Waterville for two decades, will not reopen, according to its owner.

Jon Bard said he can no longer operate the open-air food stand at 9 Seavey St. due to injuries he suffered in an automobile accident.

Bard also said he cannot sell the business because it does not meet updated state licensing regulations that changed more than 15 years into his business ownership.

Countertops, extension cords and hoses formerly used by the business now sit idle, leaning against a garage.

“I can’t wait for it to be gone because it’s depressing,” said Bard, 56. “I enjoyed the hot dog stand.”

Named for his son, Tyler, and himself, TJ’s Burgers & Dogs opened in the summer 0f 2001.

A longtime auto body mechanic and technician, Jon Bard had to leave his first career after developing epilepsy. Inspired by Courtney’s Hotdogs in Winslow, Bard decided to give his own burger-and-dog stand a try.

“I couldn’t sit at home. It drove me nuts,” he said. “It would give me something to do that would be good for my mental health.”

The Fairfield native opened TJ’s, which gave him a source of income and an enjoyable second career. His son and two stepsons would later get involved.

Each year, from the beginning of May through Halloween, Bard would serve a legion of loyal customers.

At the end of the 2018 season, Bard was involved in automobile accident that badly damaged a disc in his neck and caused back issues. He said the injuries “pretty much made it impossible to do all the heavy toting and lifting.”

Bard decided in 2019 to hire a friend to do the work Bard could no longer handle, but there was not enough revenue to justify two full-time employees. Bard began considering options, including selling the business.

A state report shows Dennis Hedegard of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services conducted an investigation Feb. 2, 2020, of Bard’s business.

According to the report, Hedegard made a “non-operational inspection to discuss new mobile definitions and document options” and evaluate other license options to bring the business into compliance with state regulations.

“Inspector pointed out the section regarding the October 2018 HIP (Health Inspection Program) rule changes and attempted to discuss methods of complying with these changes but licensee was visibly upset and did not continue dialogue,” Hedegard wrote in the report.

“It was not possible to obtain signature from licensee on this inspection form as he left the meeting abruptly.”

In October 2018, the Health Inspection Program updated some of its rules, including those for the “Eating Place — Mobile” license, which Bard had.

Bard’s business did not meet new “Eating Place — Mobile Stick Built” criteria because TJ’s “had operated at this roadside location for many years and also did not appear to demonstrate that the equipment was able to be disassembled for storage or transportation,” according to information from DHHS.

Bard did not open TJ’s in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And opening in 2021, he said, would have cost him almost $55,000, because of the revised state licensing standards.

Bard said he always complied over the years when inspectors requested minor fixes, but he could not afford what it would have cost to open his food stand this summer.

“I’d love for someone to come by and say, ‘Hey, we’ll buy TJ’s from you,’ but it’s worthless because there’s no license,” Bard said. “It had been successful. It’s not something you’ll get filthy rich from, but it’s a way to keep you off of welfare.”


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