Speaking on behalf of Ash Street Saloon's owner Trish Greenlee, the venue’s show booker, Barret Stolte, confirms the news. Stolte tells the Mercury that he has already booked shows for the venue through summer 2017, adding that he is booking as far out as he normally would. But if the right deal is made—commercial realtors are currently advertising the venue, located at 225 SW Ash Street, as a potential restaurant space—then Ash Street could close up shop early. Stolte says the landlords have elected not to renew Ash Street’s lease, which expires at the start of 2018, and do not wish to keep it going as a live music venue.
This news is emblematic of the changes taking in place in the immediate neighborhood. Located on the edge of Old Town—and a stone’s throw from the Mercury office—the property at 225 SW Ash is located on the backside of the same block as Ankeny Alley, where businesses have changed hands and signage quickly, and the storefronts look drastically different than they did even five years ago. Ash Street Saloon’s immediate neighbor, the former Sky Club—and before that, Captain Ankeny’s Well—is currently undergoing significant construction to become a new business. An online brochure for 225 SW Ash touts that the bar/venue is located next door to what will be the second Portland location of acclaimed Japanese ramen spot Afuri Ramen. Afuri has not responded to the Mercury’s inquiry about this, but info seems to indicate that the Sky Club/Captain Ankeny’s Well space will become home to the Afuri’s newest location. (Captain Ankeny’s Well, meanwhile, has opened up at a cozier new spot nearby, at 116 SW Pine.)
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Pine Street Market has collected numerous eateries in a centralized indoor location, and former porn theater Paris Theatre is once again hosting live music and DJ events. With tourist destination Voodoo Doughnuts right around the corner, 225 SW Ash has de facto become part of a renewal district dubbed the “Ankeny Blocks." Downtown Development Group LLC—headed by the longtime Portland real estate holders in the Goodman family—is currently spearheading a series of developments in the neighborhood that include commercial and residential high rises and other sizable buildings, including a proposed 75-foot-tall structure on the parking lot located across the street from Ash Street Saloon. (The aforementioned brochure offers slightly different info, suggesting the lot may become home to a 12-story market-rate apartment building.)
All this development may bode well for investors, property holders, and future enterprises in the neighborhood, but it spells the end for Ash Street. The writing has been on the wall for some time; the business was even at one point posted for sale on Craigslist, and the venue has known for about four years or so that it would eventually shut its doors, once the landlords established they did not wish to renew the lease. Portland Maps indicates the building dates from 1890, and the space itself, which includes four bathrooms and an outdoor courtyard, is quite large for downtown. It’s likely to be split into two, three, or potentially even four different businesses.
Greenlee currently has no plans to open a second Ash Street Saloon or keep its torch burning with a similar type of venture (unlike, for example, the Know, which found a new home on NE Sandy after its original location on NE Alberta was destined to close). Which means it’s time to celebrate Ash Street for what it has always been since it first opened its doors on Halloween 1994: a readily accessible venue for live music, specializing in local, loud, and low-cover shows, often spotlighting bands before they break through on the scene. I’ve seen legendary Portland bands like Dead Moon and Richmond Fontaine perform there, and for many years it functioned—along with similarly departed venues like Berbati’s Pan, Satyricon, and Someday Lounge—a crucial hub of the thriving downtown live circuit. Stolte says he would like to book some special events and guests to commemorate the place before it closes for good.
Stay tuned for more news and confirmed dates for Ash Street’s upcoming closure and any farewell shows or parties they might host. In the meantime, check out their live music calendar.