Work: Lewiston’s Legends Sports Bar & Grill Doubles Staff, Sales During COVID-19 Pandemic

LEWISTON – Melinda Small turned the Legends Sports Bar & Grill into an outdoor restaurant and drive-in last year, with 1950s outfits, when it couldn’t serve food inside.

Small parking spaces have been converted to a patio for alfresco dining and have traveled to three states to find matching furniture.

When a state warrant reduced the closing time to two hours, she added three and began serving breakfast.

This turmoil has doubled sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. And as companies around the world try to hire, it has more than doubled its number of employees.

“I continued, ‘Failure is not an option’,” she said. “I hired three people this week. At this point, we are hiring to keep up with the expected growth over the winter. Now we take care of the holiday season, catering requests, all kinds of things like that that come our way.

When Small opened Legends on Center Street nine years ago, she laughed, saying, “I had never worked a single day in the restaurant business.”

She moved it across the river in 2019, opening at 4 Mollison Way a few months before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with a bar area, dining area, and 10 pool tables.

“We were only open a few months,” Small said, “and then we started hearing about that word, ‘COVID’. “

When take-out resumed after a several-week hiatus, inspiration struck: Small called the city and the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and asked if she could serve people in their cars.

The state CDC said of course.

“We were going to think about what we could do and not what we couldn’t do, focus on the positive around that,” Small said. “Of course the staff were feeling very anxious at the time. We dressed in 50s costumes and played 50s music in the parking lot, and it ended up being really fun. Customers started arriving that we had never met before. It was a turning point for us to start to be identified as a restaurant in addition to being a pool hall.

From there, he created an outdoor patio that could accommodate 40 people. When the state allowed restaurants to reopen indoor restaurants, but ordered them to close at 9 p.m. instead of its usual 11, “we were losing two hours of revenue,” she said.

Small called the town and the CDC again. Could she open for breakfast?


“We said, ‘Alright, let’s not waste those precious hours selling and do something different,” Small said.

Entrance to Legends Sports Bar & Grill at 4 Mollison Way in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham / Journal of the Sun

Now able to open until 11 p.m. seven days a week, Small has kept breakfast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Small employees have found, increasing its workforce from 13 to 27, posting polls on social media, asking friends, “Who do you know?” “

“Even though they had no experience, I was willing to put in the time and effort to help them learn this career choice,” she said. “So we were able to bring in people who had never served, bartender or cooked before and develop new skills. “

Small, who also owns Pine Tree Retirement Planning, worked seven days a week in the pandemic’s first year.

This fall is a slightly better pace. Mornings begin with a daily message to staff.

“It’s usually a thank you message: What we did well, this week’s comments on Facebook. We help each other, ”she said.

Small said she was at Legends at 9:30 a.m., going through shopping and menus, deciding how to make steadily rising food prices work. Then it’s social media marketing and saving positions if someone has called. Some days she comes home at 7 p.m. Other days, maybe 9:30 p.m.

“I would never want to relive this pandemic again – I can’t wait to get out of it,” Small said. “However, it has taught us so much about adaptability, and it has made us a very different company.”

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