The former key shop had been shuttered and in disrepair for years before Radio Room’s Brian Alfrey and Mike Gadberry decided to take it over and turn it into a lounge that’ll be open from 3 pm to 2 am, daily.
Alfrey says Keys will seat 94 inside and has a patio that’ll seat an additional 35 outside. It’ll also showcase all the leftover unclaimed keys they found as embeds into the lounge’s expoxied finishes.
Keys’ kitchen will turn out dishes like classic cheeseburgers, fried chicken sandwiches, steak bites, pimento croquettes, pâté, and “cheat-charones” (or vegan soy “pork” rinds with smoked salt). Everything on the menu is $10 or under, save for the cocktails, which top out at $12. (But most of those are well under that mark, too.)
The opening, however, does come amid some complaints from neighboring businesses.
Last year, Rickey Brame, the owner of one of the last African-American-operated barbershops in the quadrant, closed up his neighboring shop during the construction process over a dispute that would’ve required the relocation of his electrical meter. This would have, in turn, likely forced the barber to bring his electrical wiring up to code on a building that was last remodeled in 1948—the costs of which would’ve sunk his business. According to the Portland Tribune, Brame blamed the closure, widely, on gentrification.
A month later, Keys’ other neighbor, Catalina Caldera, the owner of Catalina’s Mexican Restaurant, worried about the ongoing construction that closed parts of the sidewalk in front of her business, adding that she had to shutter for a day after construction crews accidentally shut off the water, according to the Portland Observer, the state’s oldest African-American newspaper.
In regard to both stories, Alfrey said he was simply trying to save an old building and bring life back to it and the neighborhood where he was born and grew up.
“As for our neighbors, we all take pride in our little stretch of Killingsworth and are rooting for each other,” he told the Mercury. “We look forward to good things ahead now that Keys is open and attracting more people to the the neighborhood. For our part, we never miss an opportunity to refer people to our neighboring businesses.”
Keys Lounge: 533 NE Killingsworth, 503-719-7409