When the Mercury moved from its Northeast Portland office to downtown in 2011, the worst part was that we couldn’t bring Club 21 with us. The longstanding Portland dive bar, located next door to our old office on NE 21st Avenue just off of NE Sandy, was our daily post-work hangout spot, housed in an adorable faux-castle that was built as a Russian Orthodox Church in the 1930s (its history includes an outpost of Jake's Famous Crawfish before becoming Club 21 around 1958 or so). Mercury staffers still refer to it as “the Club,” and we miss it terribly, so whenever current and ex-employees have their semi-regular disorganized get-togethers, the Club is where we meet.
There have been some unpleasant rumors that Club 21 is, at some point, destined to fall to the developer's wrecking ball. Up ’til now, these rumors have been true—when the bar’s lease is scheduled to expire in a few years, whatever remains on that site will be torn down. The building itself, and the parking lot that surrounds it, have been the location of some long-standing plans for a large mixed-used building that spelled the end of the Club as we know it. But after a recent talk with the bar’s owners, Warren Boothby and Marcus Archambeault, it sounds like there’s a potential happy ending for Club 21, provided everything goes according to plan.
The property, and its plans for development, have actually changed hands more than once since Boothby and Archambeault bought the bar’s lease a few years ago. And their current landlord, who’s represented by commercial real estate firm Colliers International, is working with them on a solution that might just be ideal. The property owner has been eager to get moving on those plans for the new construction. But rather than wait until the end of the lease and then raze Club 21 to the ground, he’s working with Boothby and Archambeault on an imminent plan to pick up the building altogether and move it, part and parcel, to a different location.
Maybe you remember when the Ladd Carriage House in downtown Portland was temporarily relocated in 2007—moving an entire building is obviously not unprecedented. Boothby and Archambeault (who also own the Sandy Hut, Double Barrel, and Gold Dust Meridian) have learned in talking with companies who specialize in this type of thing that up-and-moving a building like Club 21 is entirely feasible. Even the “Steaks for Your Enjoyment” sign would remain fully intact. Naturally, the costs gets significantly more expensive the farther a building is moved, so the bar will probably stay within a half-mile of its current location at NE Sandy and 21st. Archambeault, Boothby, and their landlord are currently scouting for the best location, and already have a few possibilities.
“We’re excited and looking forward to working with the property owner in the possibility of making this happen," Boothby said. He and Archambeault suggested that if everything goes well, the relocation could even happen within the next few months. We’ll keep you posted when a location is determined, and what the future holds for Club 21.