Community atmosphere, good drinks on tap for vacant Bookstall building
MARION — A new lounge and bar will occupy the Bookstall building in downtown Marion this spring, and will offer residents quality drinks and a space for conversation with neighbors.
Mike Achilles, a Marion resident, hopes to launch the new establishment called The Mary Celeste Neighborhood Lounge in May. “The ultimate goal is to have a conversational lounge that brings people in the village together,” said Achilles.
A self-employed technology consultant, Achilles and his wife (a veterinarian) moved to Marion in 2013 with their four children who attend Sippican Elementary School.
Achilles said the idea came from a few nightly gatherings with friends. After deciding on whose house to visit, he and his friends would enjoy a cocktail or two but had to whisper to not to wake the children.
“When the Bookstall opened up, I said to myself, ‘what a great opportunity to have some place where we can come together and do that,’” said Achilles.
The Bookstall, originally opened in 1960 by Cecilia Plumb, closed last June after 60 years of service as Marion’s beloved bookstore.
Inspired by his favorite spirits lounge in New York City, Achilles said he hopes to create a quiet space for conversation and a variety of spirits. The lounge will house a large selection of drinks and Achilles hopes people will explore the different cocktails he offers.
Achilles said he chose the name because the Mary Celeste vessel had a history in Marion and that he wanted to find a way to bring people together.
“The town is very important to my wife and myself,” he said. “It’s a small town, so it’s easy to find a way to bring the town apart — but I want to bring this town together.”
Achilles wanted to be sure that the town wanted the lounge as much as he did, so he sent out a survey to gauge the thoughts of other citizens.
He said that of the 114 people who responded to the survey, about 90 percent said that they would support the business in some way. Some responses also expressed concern that the lounge would be too pricy or exclusively for the rich.
He countered this idea by saying that people can come off their boat in shorts, after work in their jeans or even a suit. “The common denominator will be that you appreciate a good drink and the atmosphere,” said Achilles.
“We will have drinks that are affordable, and we’re also going to have some higher quality drinks that are going to be extensive — but you’ll have choice a the end of the day,” he added.
The Mary Celeste Neighborhood Lounge will not be selling beer, Achilles said. The primary reason he didn’t want to sell beer was because he wants to compliment other businesses in town rather than competing with them. For example, when Kate’s Simple Eats closes at 3 p.m., the lounge plans to open.
Achilles doesn’t plan on having the lounge open late into the night either, and will close around 10 p.m. He explained that keeping noise down will be important and that he is trying to be respectful of all the neighbors in the area.
To that end, Achilles will be installing acoustic panels in the ceilings and around the lounge to drown out as much of the noise as possible. He added that he does not plan to have live music performed at the lounge.
Achilles said that the lounge will serve light appetizers and hold wine or scotch tastings for those interested in learning more about the drinks. Though planning is still up in the air, he estimated that there will be about 40 seats and standing room in the lounge.
For now, Achilles is gearing up for the site plan review process with the Marion Planning Board. Along with the site plan, he will also need to apply for a special permit to change the retail space into a bar and restaurant, and obtain a liquor license from the Board of Selectmen.
He will also need a special permit for parking and a review from the Board of Health before the lounge is ready to go.
Achilles said that he has a 5-year lease for the building, and the right to renew if operations go smoothly.
“There’s a lot to do and the permitting process could take a couple of months,” Achilles said. “I think so far we’ve received enough positive feedback where it absolutely warrants the investment in doing this.”