Clyde Common, the Portland restaurant that arguably kick-started the barrel-aged-cocktail and actually-good-hotel-restaurant dining trends, is dramatically changing its format. Earlier today, Willamette Week reported that owner Nate Tilden plans to shutter the restaurant and “convert the space into a marketplace selling dry goods and to-go sandwiches,” operating the new business by himself and without taking a salary. “[Potential reopening] restrictions and the continuation of the current state of emergency have essentially ended Clyde Common as a business,” the email reads.
Tilden confirms to Eater that the restaurant will change fundamentally — and permanently — after COVID-19 restrictions ease: “It’s a transition. Clyde Common, the 100-seat restaurant, it’s not going to come back in that same format,” he says. For now, he’s setting aside half of the space for casual takeout and delivery dishes, like a lemon brick chicken or a burger. Then, down the line, he wants to reopen the Clyde Common bar. “It’s not going to be a big, full-service restaurant. It’ll be a tavern,” he says. “And I don’t know when that’s going to happen.”
Tilden recently received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, which forgives the loan if business owners agree to rehire staff and set aside at least 75 percent of the fund to payroll. However, Tilden has accepted that he has to pay back the loan, because to him, hiring back his staff now means losing them in the long run. “If I paid staff with the PPP loan, we’ll burn through it in two months, and not only will they be out of a job again, we’ll be applying for bankruptcy,” Tilden says. “This seems like the only way to hire people back at all.” Tilden tells the Oregonian that he plans to apply the loan to the restaurant’s rent and a remodel of the space, erecting a wall between the take-out and tavern sections, an approach that has frustrated some employees. “I know some of my staff thinks I’m an asshole,” Tilden says. “I’m going, ‘Are we all aware of the position we’re in?’”
Tilden notes there’s a possibility that a reopened tavern, whenever that happens, could retain the Clyde name. But the original, sprawling, light-filled restaurant on a corner of downtown, once emblematic of a new age of dining in Portland, is gone. Clyde Common stood as one of the city’s best new restaurants when it debuted in 2007. It eventually became a national destination for beverage nerds, known for bar manager Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s craft cocktail program and chef Jason Barwikowski’s take on “domestic and foreign cooking,” which leaned slightly Mediterranean in flavor but Portland in attitude. Clyde’s bar program attracted major national attention, earning finalist nominations from the James Beard Foundation, in the Outstanding Bar category, four times (most recently in 2018). The restaurant and bar has housed a number of talented current and former Portlanders in its time open, including Magna owner Carlo Lamagna, Bar Diane owner Sami Gaston, and former Chalino owner Johnny Leach.
“Nate has always been a guy to have the ability to adapt to any situation, whatever it may be. At the same time... he’s a businessman,” Lamagna says. “He always told me that it had to be 51 percent business, 49 percent heart. As soon as heart takes over, your business is done. I don’t fault him for that, as a new business owner.” Unfortunately, Tilden will likely be one of many business owners to make similar tough decisions in the coming months.
• Clyde Common [Official]
• Downtown Dining Staple Clyde Common Has Informed Staff It Will Not Be Reopening [WWeek]
• Clyde Common, noted Portland restaurant and cocktail bar, will not reopen as we know it [O]