Geaghan's co-owner Andrew Geaghan in 2017. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Geaghan’s Pub and Craft Brewery has put plans to expand its Bangor location by more than an acre on hold as the business navigates the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bangor City Council gave the Main Street restaurant the option to buy city-owned land south of its current property in February 2020. Geaghan’s said it could use the land to expand parking and add outdoor seating. It also discussed building a new brewery building where it would consolidate all its brewing operations, potentially closing its 3,600-square-foot production space in Brewer.

But COVID-19 hit Maine in March, just a few weeks later, devastating the restaurant industry and injecting uncertainty into the economy. That led Geaghan’s to put the expansion project on hold, co-owner Andrew Geaghan said.

The city continues to be in contact with Geaghan’s as it figures out its next steps with the potential 1.32-acre expansion, Bangor Director of Community and Economic Development Tanya Emery said.

“We have started to revive the project,” Geaghan said. “But we are still too soon in the process to have anything definite to say about it.”

COVID-19 led businesses across the country to hit the pause button on expansion projects. For Geaghan’s, it’s still uncertain whether the expansion will happen, even as vaccinations pick up and Maine relaxes economic and travel restrictions ahead of the summer tourism season.

“We are really just bringing it back to life and exploring our options,” Geaghan said. “At this point, it may end up going either way.”

The parcel of land Geaghan’s has the option to buy, which follows the Penobscot River between Dutton Street and Interstate 395, was once used to store locomotives from the nearby railroad. Yet, it has long been undeveloped. In 2018, city crews tried to clear an encampment there by cutting down the trees and overgrowth that had given shelter to about 40 people.

The Geaghan’s expansion would be one of a number of developments along Bangor’s Penobscot River waterfront. The city is currently in the midst of installing a 3.8 million-gallon, underground storage tank along the waterfront to collect raw sewage during times of heavy rain and snowmelt. And once that is complete, the city plans to extend its waterfront park and pedestrian path, with construction set to begin in the summer of 2022.

COVID-19 has had an especially damaging effect on the food service industry as fewer people became willing to venture into public places.

Portland is one of the restaurant capitals of New England. Yet the pandemic has driven sales in its restaurant sector down substantially. In Bangor, the hospitality industry has been hurt so much it looks poised to disrupt the city’s property tax base.

Outside of the restaurant industry, a handful of business expansion projects are in the works in the Bangor region.

Northeast Paving in Hermon plans to build a $16.5 addition to its production facility in Hermon this year. And Pittsfield has seen the addition of two new plants that are producing COVID-19 testing swabs. Guilford-based Puritan Medical Products, which is one of two manufacturers of nasopharyngeal testing swabs in the world, is now planning another plant in Tennessee.