Bluehour, the Pearl District restaurant from Portland restaurateur Bruce Carey, will not reopen. The restaurant, which opened in Portland in 2000, has been a special occasion standby for years, and was once home to celebrated Portland chef Kenny Giambalvo (Rosa Rosa, Pazzo).
“The prospects for a profitable relaunch have dimmed considerably in the context of a far-off, post-COVID future where casual service, social-distancing, to-go service and delivery are all key to any viable restaurant business plan,” reads Carey’s Facebook post announcing the closure. “I remain grateful that Bluehour has been able to play such a prominent role in the high-spirited Portland restaurant scene for the past 20 years.”
When Bluehour opened, it became a favorite for many Portlanders looking for a lavish night out. The Oregonian’s critic at the time, Bob Hicks, called the restaurant “Portland’s premier slice of the luxe life.” The Oregonian, which first reported on the closure, described early menus of foie gras and suckling pig whose decadence was offset by cheddar dumplings and burgers. In recent years, the menu wasn’t quite as opulent; still, the restaurant’s market steaks, oysters on the half-shell, and themed brunches still attracted revelers and celebrities like Todd Haynes and Gus Van Sant.
“My heart is heavy after the announcement yesterday. I was already missing my staff, but now I don’t know when I’ll see them again,” Carey said in an email to Eater Portland. “People are coming out of the woodwork to tell me how much Bluehour meant to them, how it impacted their lives, and was like no other. When you are deep in the trenches as I have been, it’s easy to forget what a nourishingly positive thing a restaurant can be.”
Bruce Carey’s restaurant group, like many others, has struggled financially during the COVID-19 crisis. Back in March, Carey temporarily closed all of his restaurants — including his downtown spot Saucebox and New American restaurant 23Hoyt — and laid off several employees, many of whom found that their final paychecks were 25 percent short. Carey told Eater in March that he fully intended to pay those employees the final 25 percent when he had it. “After closing so abruptly, there was no time to plan,” he said. “There was simply nothing left. As with many of my employees, I am on unemployment for the first time in my life, something that seemed inconceivable just a few short weeks ago.”
Carey told Eater Portland that all of those employees have been paid in full, and one former employee has confirmed that he did receive the final 25 percent of their wages — plus a bonus — about two months after he received his initial check.
Rumors have been circulating that the other restaurants, in particular 23Hoyt, will not reopen; Carey says that he and partner Joe Rogers do plan to reopen their remaining restaurants, starting in the next few weeks with Clarklewis, followed by 23Hoyt in August, and then Saucebox. “We are taking one step at a time, one restaurant at a time,” he said.
• Bluehour closing announcement [Facebook]
• Bluehour, once the crown jewel of the Pearl District dining scene, closes for good due to coronavirus [O]
• Bruce Carey Restaurant Group Reduces Laid Off Employees’ Final Paychecks by 25 Percent [EPDX]