The sky shone grey and the air was heavy with rain when Alex Carlson had his lightbulb moment. It was two years ago, when his friend bought a light therapy device to combat his Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Carlson was skeptical, but his friend swore by the synthetic sunlight to fight Portland winter blues. The moment Carlson decided to try light therapy for himself, all his doubt dissolved. "I kind of had this 'Aha!' moment of, 'Hey, maybe a cafe and bar setting would be a nice place to get light therapy,'" said Carlson. "It's kind of boring to sit by yourself at your house every morning in front of the light." Thus Lightbar was incepted, merging the anti-depressant properties of light therapy with the well-known anti-depressant properties of food and liquor. According to Carlson, by way of exhaustive Googling, Lightbar is the first of its kind.
Lightbar's fixtures are by no means limited to lamps. "We can wash the walls with any color of light that we decide to dial in," said Carlson, and the space also features an "incredible chandelier that sort of looks like a tree" built with LEDs, cyber optics, and 600 dangling Swarovski crystals. In addition to playing with light, Lightbar's space features vaulted ceilings and gigantic walls that will soon play host to artists and musicians, both local and touring.
The menu works the cafe angle more than typical bar fare, focusing primarily on soups, salads, and panini. Vegetarian and gluten-free options abound, but Carlson bows down to the BLT on soft ciabatta, calling it "just straight up one of the best I've ever had." Behind the bar, mixologist Jason McKelley infuses liquors to create cocktails like the Heart Light, which mixes Canton liqueur, tequila, lemon juice, basil, and jalapeno.
Lightbar is open now. Hours of operation: 11a.m. to 11p.m., Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; Thursday through Saturday, 11a.m. to close.
· Lightbar [Official site]