BAR HARBOR — When a new Main Street bar called The Barnacle announced on Facebook that they planned a “soft opening” during the Pajama Sale and Bed Races Nov. 12, neighbors and town officials were surprised.
Proprietor Andrew Ropp had obtained most of the required state and town permits and licenses, but not a town building permit for the building renovation or the proposed change from retail to restaurant use. A filing error at the town planning office also added to the confusion.
Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain issued a notice of violation Nov. 14 to building owner Patricia Ropp, Andrew’s mother, who operated the Art and Soul store there until 2012.
“It has come to my attention that you have recently opened a restaurant … in a space that was previously retail space,” the notice said. “No permits or approvals were obtained for the change in use or the installation of signage. Additionally, no inspections of any work was done during construction or prior to opening.”
In July, the town Design Review Board had in fact granted permission for the new color scheme and design for the building, flower boxes on the roof and the new sign featuring a seven-masted schooner.
Those documents were misfiled in the planning office, Chamberlain said, so she was unaware the changes had been approved.
Andrew Ropp contacted Chamberlain and began work on an “After the Fact” building permit application. For land uses allowed in a given district with a permit from the code officer, the building permit is the mechanism to change from one category of land use to another. It also helps the town determine if other permits are needed, like electrical or plumbing.
Chamberlain and Fire Chief Matt Bartlett inspected the building last week and confirmed that the plumbing in the building had already existed and there were no changes to the electrical system.
Ropp and his brother Adam had been working on the building renovation for several years, in between stints shipping out as merchant marines. Andrew now hopes to ship out less often and stay on Mount Desert Island more of the year.
A bar is “the logical thing to do with the space,” Ropp said, because it’s a small, narrow structure.
Before his family bought the building many years ago, he said, it was known as the Snack Shack. Ice cream and fried dough were served from the bay window in the front, he said.
He remembers helping remove the ice cream equipment when he was a kid. This most recent renovation is “really a cosmetic thing,” he said.
The color scheme, especially lots of finished wood surfaces, the sign and the small space lend The Barnacle a nautical look. Ropp said that’s probably the result of him and Adam being sailors and merchant marines.
“We can’t help it!” he said.
“The look we were aiming for is more ‘Old Bar Harbor’ – we wanted the place to look as if it was from the rusticator days. We wanted it to be a place that anyone would feel welcome and comfortable.”
The bar is open daily beginning at 3 p.m., and they hope to stay open through the winter, Ropp said. “We don’t want anyone to come and rattle the door handle and have it not be open.”
Monica Stanley, who has worked at Side Street Café and several other local restaurants, works as the manager and bartender most nights. “She knows the service industry back to front,” Ropp said.
They may offer some food in the future, but it will be limited. “We’ll try to get soups or other easy stuff. We’re not ever going to have a fryer or a range,” he said.