HALLOWELL — Hydeout at the Wharf, a lively dive bar where countless musicians cut their teeth, benefits were held to support community members in need, and thousands of guests enjoyed live music and food for over 40 years, is facing an uncertain future.

Bar owner Wayne Hyde says the property owner has refused to renew his lease while also raising his rent by $500.

“I can’t run my business that way,” said Hyde. “I can’t run it without knowing what’s going on. So rather than wait for him to say ‘Get out,’ I’m proactively looking.”

The increase in rent came shortly after the bar reopened following a nine-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is only the latest of Hyde’s struggles. He said despite getting permission from both the city and state, he was also denied the ability to use the grass outside to host musicians and guests for the city’s annual “Old Hallowell Day.” He said the two-day event typically involves seven acts playing outdoors and about five indoors.

“I make close to about 7% of my income for the year in those two days,” he said. “It’s a fair piece of change.”


And the amount of available parking spots was cut from nine down to two.

The entire property, which encompasses 130-138 Water St. and consists of nine residential and five retail units, is currently listed via LUX Realty with a sale pending for $2,995,000. According to the listing, the property “is already permitted as fourteen approved condominium units.”

Hyde said other businesses in the property also face uncertainties.

“Juiced doesn’t have a lease either,” said Hyde. “He wouldn’t give her a lease, and the store above me, I think their lease expires at the end of this month.”

Plaques for Abbott Vaughn Meader and Kenny Cox are located in the doorway between bar and porch at Hydeout at the Wharf in Hallowell. The two are late musicians who used to play there. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Business owners on the 130-138 Water St. properties did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Property owner Stephen Hammond did not respond to a request for comment relayed through Hallowell Code Enforcement Officer Doug Ide, and Building Manager Bridget Barrows did not respond to a request for comment.

Hyde, who comes from Attleboro, Massachusetts, said he’s seen this happen in his hometown as well.


“There was a lot of mom and pop stuff there that slowly went out of business,” he said, “and when they went out, pretty much everything in the center of Attleboro was converted to condos.”

He said community members, musicians and locals have reached out since hearing the news and are “heartbroken” that the bar is leaving.

“It really is their history,” said Hyde. “They’ve been playing here since they were teenagers. Losing The Wharf is really hurting the local musicians.”

Brett Shain, a local musician, played the second gig ever hosted by the bar after they opened over four decades ago, and he was devastated upon hearing about its departure.

Wayne Hyde stands in his bar Wednesday at Hydeout at the Wharf in Hallowell. He said that the custom-made live edge bar top was made from a log cut down near his home. Hyde says the property owner has refused to renew his lease while also raising his rent by $500, so he has begun looking for a new location. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It was the beginning of the music scene in Hallowell,” said Shain. “The Wharf and Slates, they started it all.”

Since then, the bar has been instrumental in fostering the city’s unique music scene and personality.


“The Wharf is a church for musicians,” Shain said. “So many people learned their craft there. There have been countless celebrations of life there, from community people to past mayors, musicians, to whomever. It’s a huge part of the soul of our community, and it’s just sad to see it go the way it is.”

As a 66-year-old musician, Shain has worked with many bar and venue owners, and said Hyde is among the best.

“Most bar owners are halfway decent folks, but then you run into the occasional person who totally gets it from the musician’s standpoint, the artist’s standpoint, and that’s Wayne.”

As a result of Hyde’s work, and the work of previous owners, Shain said the Wharf is “by far the best music venue in Hallowell.”

“There’s nobody else that touches it,” he said.

Monica Castellanos, who co-owns Maine Local Market with her partner, Tom Janenda, said she is from the area so she has been going to the Wharf for a very long time. “The Wharf is an institution and we hope it stays right where it is,” she said.


Hyde said the Wharf is a “dive bar by all standards,” with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

When he took over in August 2017, Hyde said he loved the bar’s charm so much that he wanted to keep it the way it was.

“I didn’t come here to make a million dollars,” he said.

But just a few months after taking over, the building was hit by an ice flood in January 2018.

“The ice was over my pool table,” he said.

The bar was hit with flooding once again last December, and while it was closed, Hyde, assisted by community members, went in and lifted everything off the floor so it would not be touched by water.

Graffiti dating from 1986 is seen Wednesday a restroom at Hydeout at the Wharf in Hallowell. Both bathrooms are covered with graffiti dating back 40 years and Hyde said he plans to take the boards with him and reinstall them when the bar moves to a new location. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Looking ahead, Shain said he’s concerned that this could mark the beginning of more Hallowell businesses closing down or moving.

“You got this cool little artsy town with music, great restaurants and so forth and all of a sudden prices start to go awry as outside interests come in with big money and the next thing you know, the character of the town is taken away,” said Shain.

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