"I can't walk outside without spending five minutes telling people what I plan to do with the place," says new owner Eli Johnson, who plans to reopen the bar this Friday, July 20th for the first pours since it shuttered on June 30th. "When a place is around this long, they feel like they have ownership of it, and I understand and respect that."
What will be different? "We might put a lightbulb in the sign," jokes the new owner. Besides that, not much. "We put paper over the window to make people wonder what was going on, but I bought it because I love Dots and I want it to be Dots."
The biggest change people will notice is the staff: Dots entire front-of-house staff was let go for the sale and Johnson, who previously managed the Night Light Lounge across the street, is bringing on a new serving crew. "At the Night Light, I took over a staff that was already existing and that created as many problems as good things," says Johnson. "I've been living in Portland since '93 and working in the service industry here since '94, so I knew a lot of people I wanted to work with."
The menu will be slightly different, too—Dots is adding small items like edamame and a miso green salad and switching to get its bread from Little T Bakery up the street and Pearl Bakery, rather than from Franz. For at least a while, there will be no outdoor seating, either, since the bar's outdoor cafe permit doesn't transfer between owners.
This is the first business Johnson, 41, has owned, after starting his career in the kitchen of a Vermont steakhouse at age 14. He wound up buying Dots after a strange dream prompted him to look into whether the business across the street from his Night Light job was for sale. "I had a dream that Dots was for sale," says Johnson. "I woke up grumpy because someone else bought it."