Alfredo Climaco, the owner of the new Latin American cocktail bar Tropicale, has died of complications related to coronavirus. Climaco had just opened Tropicale, his first brick-and-mortar bar, last year. He was 32.
Climaco was raised in Puebla, Mexico, where he developed a love for bartending and service. In an August conversation, he recalled memories of drinking piña coladas out of hollowed out pineapples as a teenager, which became one of his signature drinks as a bar owner and bartender. He started working at a nightclub at 17, where he learned the basics of bartending. “I fell in love with certain aspects of the service industry,” he said in August. “I like how rewarding it is to make people feel happy.”
He moved to the United States in 2010, hoping to one day own his own business. He put himself through business classes at Portland Community College, and eventually started making non-alcoholic piña coladas, served in pineapples, at outdoor events like the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival. The success of his pop-ups gave him the motivation to open Tropicale with restaurateur Matt Lynch in the summer of 2020.
The bar, in the Ocean building on NE Glisan, became a hotspot quickly. People were drawn to Climaco’s warmth and his vibrant drinks, from margaritas inspired by Pueblan dishes to frozen drinks poured out of blenders. Tables strewn across the outdoor patio filled on weekend nights, and occasionally people would dance on the stones of the patio outside the bar. Climaco had started working on a takeout cocktail menu in December, looking forward to the opportunity to hire back some of his employees. “I’m not trying to make any profits right now, I’m just trying to break even,” he said in December. “In the freeze, it really hurt my heart just telling people, ‘Okay, you can’t work.’”
For those who knew him, Climaco was considered gregarious, incredibly hardworking, and kind-hearted. His family and coworkers have organized a GoFundMe to cover both his funeral and medical costs; excess funds will go to the Portland Mercado, which supported Climaco as he began his business. Tropicale will be closed today, and likely for the rest of the week as the family and coworkers grieve.
• In Memory of Alfredo Climaco [GFM]
• There’s A New Spot to Drink Piña Coladas Out of Hollowed Out Pineapples [EPDX]
• For Some Portland Bar Owners, To-Go Cocktail Legislation Feels Like Too Little, Too Late [EPDX]