“La Cage” is an oil on canvas painting of The Cage in the 1980s. It’s one of a series of paintings of local bars by Joyce Groemmer, as part of her thesis at Bates College in Lewiston. Submitted photo

LEWISTON —  If you think about how many people walked through the doors of The Cage — also called La Cage — since it opened in 1969, it’s easy to explain why there were several hundred responses to our post asking for your memories of the Ash Street joint.

The owners have sold the building at 97 and 99 Ash St. and will close the bar Feb. 15. The news has been greeted with an outpouring of comments from friends, family and patrons that span five generations, some in disbelief, others with relief.

It was a bar, for sure, but it was a community hangout, a place where people met and formed relationships that have, in some cases, lasted a lifetime. One thing that stands out is the very deep connection to Bates College, especially among the series of owners, who all appear to have been alums or have a direct Bates connection.

Patrons shared about plenty of firsts at The Cage:

“Went once when I first turned 21 … found out it was my father’s hangout and never went back.”

“Spent my 21st birthday there, and got a Grateful Dead drink … boy was I dead alright.”


“Only went one time, one time was enough.”

“First time there saw Black Cat Road.”

“Got married at Bates College Chapel, 2 limos stopped at The Cage for pictures because I met my wife there, then headed to Martindale for the reception.”

“My very first Long Island Iced Tea was here on my 21st! Followed by my second … followed by me finding a spot to “pray” on the other side of the street down the road.”

“My first legal drink was at The Cage, just after midnight on my birthday. We cheered my birthday and my Dad.” That’s just one of the memories sent by Monica Cagayat (Pearce), whose father, John “Jake” Pearce, owned The Cage from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, selling the bar to one of his longtime employees a few months before his death. In the end, we heard from three generations of owners or family members.

“I can still remember what it smelled like, what it felt like to sit in those giant oversized wood chairs, the sounds from the jukebox, the ice machines, the register, the kitchen, the dart board, the shuffle board, the PAC-MAN machine, the cigarette machine,” Cagayat added.


“So much of my childhood is wrapped up in memories of The Cage and my father,” she said. “I loved going to work with him and getting to spend part of my day there. I remember it being an amazing place, especially at lunchtime, when people from all parts of the community would come to eat and chat.”

Coleton Webber remembers growing up in The Cage, too. His father, Dennis Webber, is one of the current co-owners.

“The cage was like a second home to me, and the regulars were my family,” he said. “I felt like royalty every time I walked in, everyone’s head would turn, and you would know the second they recognized you because everyone’s face would break out in a grin ear to ear. “Aaaaayyyyyy the twins are here” everyone would yell.

A lot of people sent memories of the food at The Cage. Some remember the taco bar or the salad bar, pig roasts, the salmon pie brought from The Italian Bakery and dough for Sicilian pizza:

Vincent McEachern made the table with The Cage logo on it and was a regular at the Lewiston landmark on Ash Street. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I remember when in the ’90s when Julie did the Sunday prime rib for about $6.99 w/potato and veggie. Oh Yea!”

“Best lunch deals in town.”


“They used to have the best steak and cheese subs and their potato and macaroni salad were the bomb, too!”

“Mid-’80s $3.50 burger and a pitcher, and then pint-sized LI Iced Teas.”

At least one particular bartender and his drinks are legendary — strong and generous and Long Island Iced Teas get the nod for the most mentions:

“I believe the bartender invented the drink Dirty Mother — coffee, brandy, milk and a shot of tequila. Yum!”

“Great times for sure. Buddy made the strongest drinks in town.”

“Buddy Taylor at the bar making those MEAN Iced Teas.”


“Big glass cocktails. Buddy.”

“The Cage nice strong drinks & cheap. Always got a free drink on your birthday too.”

There were karaoke nights, bachelorette parties, baby showers, whipped cream “pies” in the face on St. Patrick’s Day to raise money for muscular dystrophy, the Greenest Body Contest, ski buses to Saddleback, beach parties in the winter — complete with a sandbox for people to dance in and T-shirts and towels as giveaways, and Coleton Webber remembers the time when they shut down The Cage to host a Bates graduation party.

Football at the bar brought the Armchair Quarterback Contest, where at the end of the season a lucky person would get to take home a recliner as a prize. Many went to The Cage for karaoke and the live music from bands such as Blue Khakis, The Twisted Roots, The Benedict Crippler Band, Black Rain, Dirty McCurdy and Alions, to name a few.

Philip “Pat” Archambault and his wife, Laura, are pictured in Vero Beach, Fla. Pat Archambault owned The Cage on Ash Street in Lewiston in the 1970s. The couple met at the popular bar. Submitted photo

Love was apparently part of the potent mix at The Cage, too, with at least six people writing that they met their spouse there, with all but one still happily married after three or more decades! Among the couples, Philip “Pat” Archambault and his wife, Laura.

Meeting her, he said, was the best thing that ever happened to him at The Cage. Archambault bought The Cage for $4,000 in the early 1970s when he was in his 20s and ran it first with a partner and then by himself until he and his wife left Maine in 1979.

At the time, the bar was only the 97 Ash St. part of the building.

“When the food market at 99 Ash Street closed, I expanded the bar into that space and I continue to use the butcher block and cleaver from that store,” Archambault remembered.

With the state’s mandate of at least 10% of sales having to come from food sales, Archambault said one of his best memories was steamed clams. His brother would bring two bushels of clams from Damariscotta, where he worked. “What I’d do is spend the whole afternoon and evening steaming 120 pounds of clams, selling them for a dollar,” he said. “And the rule of The Cage was, you’d get a container of butter and a container of broth, and if you got any sand in your clams, I’d reimburse the dollar. I never had to reimburse one.”

“Went there when Pat Archambault owned it and the right side hadn’t been incorporated with the left,” Rachel Anderson wrote on Facebook. “My husband and I became great friends with John Pearce, aka Jake, and Dick Becker, aka Boomer, Baties who owned it for many years … We had many great times with them, both special in their own right!”

Monica Cagayat offered up one last thought:

“As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to be at the bar at night. It was a rare occasion when that was allowed. But one Christmas I begged my Dad to let me go with him to open the bar at 5 p.m., and it’s still one of my favorite memories from childhood. It was a great reminder that people find friends and create family in all places, and sometimes they gathered at The Cage on Christmas and enjoyed each other’s company.”

The story sent on behalf of Bates alum Matt Sonne is a fitting place to end this walk down memory lane as The Cage gets ready for its final act:

“It was the fall of 1989 and I had been at Bates for only a few weeks. The weekend had arrived and my grandparents and their friend, Mrs. Darneille, were driving up from Connecticut to see me. They planned to take me to lunch before heading to Mrs. Darneille’s lake house.I asked my buddies in Chase House for a lunch spot in town that would be suitable for grandparents. With straight faces, they told me, “ah, take them to The Cage. They will love it — very fancy, perfect for grandparents.”“My grandmother arrived to campus wearing a flowered dress and pearls. Mrs. Darneille was wearing a huge hat you’d wear to a wedding. My grandpa was in loafers and a tweed coat. I gave them a tour of campus, they thought it was beautiful, and couldn’t wait for the special lunch spot I’d picked.“When we arrived to the corner of Ash Street, I escorted this trio of 80-year-olds into a dark, low-ceiling, windowless bar and realized … I’d been had!  But the story lived on in history! My grandfather loved reliving the episode and for the rest of his life, swore that it was the best burger and beer he’d ever had.” — Matt Sonne, Bates Class of 1993.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.