HALLOWELL — For city residents such as Sam Shain, the likely loss of Hydeout at the Wharf is a blow.

For more than four decades, the waterfront bar in Hallowell has been a place where musicians got their start, the community gathered in times of trouble for fundraisers, wakes and funerals, and people could gather and enjoy a drink.

On Sunday, Shain was joined by several dozen area sign-waving residents at the corner of Water and Wharf streets to protest the possibility the bar will close.

Dozens of residents turn out Sunday afternoon to protest the likely closure of HydeOut at the Wharf in downtown Hallowell. Its owner says his lease is being terminated. The buildings that house the Wharf, four other businesses and nine apartments have been listed for sale for almost $3 million. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

Last week, bar owner Wayne Hyde said his landlord had raised his rent and refused to renew his lease, making the bar’s future uncertain.

Hydeout at the Wharf is just one of the businesses expected to be affected by the pending sale of 130-138 Water St., a block of buildings owned by Stephen Hammond that has been listed for sale for nearly $3 million. The block is now home to five businesses and nine apartments.

“We’re here because we love the Wharf,” Shain said, as passing cars honked and fellow protesters waved. “But this is also a broader conversation about what’s going to become of the city if this sort of thing continues to happen. Where does it end?”

Ed Miller, who has been a partner at Higher Grounds Coffee House, which has since closed, said Hallowell is a historic town and the Wharf is a historic business.

“There ought to be some way before a business is forced to move out of this town that there is a minimum of public discussion,” Miller said. “There’s give and take with the community that gives you life.”

All the businesses on Water Street have faced difficult years, with the months-long reconstruction of the street, winter floods and the COVID-19 pandemic, that caused businesses in Hallowell and across Maine to close for periods of time.

Jasmine Giles, who moved to Hallowell 12 years ago, said Hydeout at the Wharf is a multigenerational business that has supported the arts in the riverfront city for years.

With the pending sale, Giles said, Hallowell would lose Hydeout at the Wharf and other businesses that have made Hallowell desirable to many people.

“It’s the grander issue of gentrification in this town, and having commodity overlook community,” she said. “That’s something we’re totally against.”

Shain, a third-generation Hallowell resident and musician, said he sees the issue as a contradiction.

Hallowell resident Sam Shain, holding his son, Sonder, says the loss of Hydeout at the Wharf would be a blow to the community. Shain organized a protest Sunday afternoon that drew several dozen people to the corner of Water and Wharf streets. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

“They invested in this town because it was a cool, artistic place to invest in,” he said, “but this same activity of investment is strangling why they invested in the place in the first place.”

Shain said he grew up going to Hydeout at the Wharf, playing pinball while his father — also a musician — played inside. When Shain was a bit older, the first gig his band, Scolded Dogs, played more than a decade ago was at the Wharf.

“I guess someone can do what they want with their property, to a certain degree,” he said, “but what about when it starts to affect a broad swath of the community?”

State Rep. Charlotte Warren, a Democrat who represents Hallowell, Manchester and West Gardiner, was also at Sunday’s protest.

“Our message today is not to suggest we are here with solutions,” Warren said. “Our message is we’d like the Hallowell City Council to be committed to figuring out how do we keep the Wharf here. What does that look like? We don’t yet, but we need a commitment from the Hallowell City Council that we’re going to work to do it.

“You get the commitment, and then you figure out your resources, your ordinances, your rules, and you figure out what to do.”

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