Circa 33 had one of the worst-kept secrets in Portland. Flip specific a book in the bookcase in the back hallway of this speakeasy-themed bar on Belmont to reveal a keypad. The code is 1933, the titular year that Prohibition ended — behind the now unlocked door is a semi-hidden dining room, with a bar window overlooking the back patio. For years, it served as an event space and party room; there, and at the rest of the bar, diners could find pre-Prohibition cocktails and contemporary dining menus of pub staples. On Sunday, September 26, the restaurant quietly hosted its final service with no fanfare or announcements.
The lease on the bar’s space was up at the end of September, and rather than renew, the owners of Independent Restaurant Concepts — the restaurant group behind Circa 33 — chose to focus their time and energy on Pacific Crust Pizza Company, its new pizza brand. Its first permanent location will open later this year in the Hotel Lucia, in the space formerly home to Vitaly Paley’s the Crown. A representative from IRC told Eater that Circa 33’s employees have all been offered positions at the new pizza place and at Paddy’s Bar and Grill, the restaurant group’s downtown Irish pub.
The speakeasy-themed Circa 33 opened in the fall of 2011 and quickly began to draw regular crowds to its elegant dining room, with its high-backed vintage booths, gorgeous copper bar, and towering glass backbar complete with a sliding ladder. Cocktails veered towards the classics, but often less common ones: Singapore slings, Vespers, pisco sours, and brandy crustas adorned the menu, which also offered burgers, salads, pasta dishes, and other comfort foods. Prior to the pandemic, the bar would often host Prohibition-themed dance parties and other themed events.
Besides the decked-out vintage interior, diners also visited for the spacious alleyway and back patio dining areas. In summer of 2020, it temporarily converted to Gin Alley, pivoting towards a menu of Chinese-American dishes and a gin-heavy cocktail list. That concept closed in November during the brief shutdown of all on premise dining, though elements of it remained when Circa 33 re-opened shortly after. Throughout the pandemic, the patio remained as a popular spot, though overall dining numbers, like most everywhere, were down.
It’s unclear what will happen in the current space, but it’s unlikely that Circa 33 will ever reopen.