According to Byron Beck at GoLocalPDX, Easy Company, the Chefstable-funded craft cocktail and beer bar in Old Town, will be closing its doors Oct. 11. Four days later, Chefstable will reopen the bar as Big Trouble.
The six-month-old bar was the brainchild of Ryan Magarian, co-founder of Aviation Gin and Oven & Shaker, who wanted to create a laid-back place where the cocktails and beer got equal attention. He opened it in early April, taking over the space next to the former Ping restaurant and giving it a mildly military spin. Lardo's commissary kitchen took over the old restaurant space and provided the bar's food.
Easy Company had all the hallmarks of easy success: big names, big talent and a great-looking space in a close-in location with little competition.
"We had an inexpensive lease, access to Lardo's kitchen and some of the best work I've ever done behind the bar," Magarian told Beck. "Having grown up here, I knew this area [Old Town/Chinatown] was a worthwhile destination. But on the weekends it seems to devolve into a 'zone of personal misuse.' "
With sales just breaking even, Chefstable's Kurt Huffman decided to pull the plug. Magarian will move on to other projects and hopes to find a better place to resurrect Easy Company. Aside from his departure, there's no word yet on how Big Trouble will be different. Less emphasis on craft and more bottom-shelf booze to fuel the "personal misuse?"
"I am confident we will have hit on something that will do great down here," says Huffman cryptically. Eater has reached out to Huffman for details; more information as it becomes available.
Update! We talked to Huffman, who explained the reasoning behind the change. "The bottom line is that it doesn't make any sense to have a racehorse plow a soybean field," he says. "It makes no sense for Ryan, who has all of these other opportunities, to be down there. This is not a part of town where anyone cares about fresh-squeezed juices or cocktails that take work and creativity."
But Huffman holds out hope that someday that will change. "I made a commitment to be part of this renewal of Old Town and we're going to stay stubborn on it. It's a labor of love. You know what's going to happen if it's left up to developers, and I don't think anyone wants that. If Chinatown can somehow make it, if it can be a place where people aren't petrified to go to at night, it would be awesome. Where else in Portland do you have that density of historical buildings?"
During the day, the area's smattering of cool shops and design-focused businesses belie the drunken "knuckleheads" that congregate at night. Huffman thinks it'll take another three to five years before the area's nightlife is consistent with its daytime scene, but new developments in the works offer glimmers of hope.
"There's lots of really cool stuff happening," says Huffman. "The scale is going to tip and I'm planning to be there when it happens -- even if it's 10 years from now."
In the meantime, Big Trouble will get a simple make-under to give it a less "designed" feel, hours will be limited to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and cocktails and food (not from Lardo) will sit squarely the $5 range. "We're being more realistic about the kind of clientele in the neighborhood," says Huffman. "But we have a few tricks up our sleeve."