Queer Guide 2024

The Mercury's 2024 Queer Guide: Endless Queer Summer

Rainbow signs in windows are legion, and Portland's queer summer is endless.

All Pride All the Time

There’s something happening every weekend, as we count down to Portland Pride!

Kathleen Hanna Is Making a Documentary About Darcelle XV

Fun fact: The riot grrrl punk singer is Walter Cole's second cousin.

Q Marks the Spot

For two decades, the Q Center has been a safe haven for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community—and they have even bigger dreams for the future.

Find Queer Comedy Tonight!

Our roundup of the best queer (and queer adjacent) comedy shows in Portland.

We Are in Cinema's Golden Age of the Lesbian Dirtbag

Celebrate Pride with lesbian cinema! Without crying, for once!

EverOut's 2024 Pride Event Calendar

Don't miss a minute of fun during this year's Queer Summer!

QUEER PUZZLE PAGE!

You don't have to be queer to figure out these puzzles... but it helps!

This Portland Gay Bar Is Opening a Family-Friendly LGBTQIA+ Lounge

Since spring, we've wondered about "Scandals East." Here's the plan.

THE TRASH REPORT: Pride Edition

Target Is Canonically Gay! Did the Founding Fathers Kiss Dudes?

A Portland Drag Clown in Residence at the Venice Biennale

Artist Jeffery Gibson invited Carla Rossi to climb his installation on the US pavilion.

Queer Bars in Portland, a History

Silverado was once Flossie's; Lowensdale Park was once a place to cruise—take a brief dive into a history of our city's queer spaces.

Mona Chrome Is—Ironically Enough—a "Walking Crayon Box"

Gary Barnes sees drag as a way to combine their passions for painting, costume design, and dance—all at once!

Cocktail-Coded

Northeast Portland neighborhood wine bar Bonne Chance built a queer clientele on allyship and Malört.

Queer Guide Comic: COVID-Safer Pride Guide

Protect your ability to party—and protest—this Pride!

Queer Eye for the Pedalpalooza Ride

Portland leads the way in welcoming riders of all genders and sexualities.

The Long Road to Justice

As the American legal landscape for LGBTQ+ residents 
grows hostile, Oregon works to enshrine rights for all.

Where to Find a Queer-Owned Bar or Restaurant Near You

Fourteen spots to try during Portland Pride Summer—and beyond!

The Future of HIV Treatment Is Injectable

Promising prugs could expand treatment–if we get out of our own way.

[Find the Mercury's Queer Guide in print—available in more than 500 spots citywide!—eds.]

What makes a gay bar? Is it that little Progress Pride flag in the window? If that were the case, nearly every bar in Portland would feel queer-coded. No, what makes a gay bar is not simply the presence of Pride flags or the promise of Madonna songs in rotation. It’s the people: the customers, the regulars, and also the owners who set out to prioritize the LGBTQ+ community and their needs.

So, is the Alberta Street bar Bonne Chance a gay bar? According to co-owners James and Mark Ehrman, brothers who both identify as straight, it depends who you ask.

“The other day we said, ‘I don’t know, I guess we’re kind of a gay bar,’” James related to the Mercury, chattily. “Our friend Sean said, ‘Are you stupid? Look who’s here!’” Amongst the bar patrons there were at least three gay couples. More friends, Javier and Isaac, entered the conversation, asking what everyone was talking about, and James caught them up: “Oh, nothing. We just got called stupid by someone we thought was a friend!”

To which Javier and Isaac said, “Look around. Just because you’re stupid doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.’”

“It’s like we’re a pan bar, like pansexual,” Mark added to the tale. “We’ve got everything.”

Bonne Chance opened in August 2021, replacing wine bar Ciao Vitto. Mark, the younger Ehrman brother, had worked at Ciao Vito since he first moved to Portland, in 2015. James had worked as a sommelier in San Francisco, Napa Valley, New York, and Los Angeles, so when his brother began to sense Ciao Vito’s owner, Vito DiLullo, wanted out of the restaurant business, he and Mark began planning Bonne Chance.

“COVID’s definitely changed this street a lot,” Mark said. “There used to be a lot more nighttime activity, but it’s coming back. I like to call it the Alberta Renaissance.”

The bar’s wine list includes a generous offering of regional wines, guaranteed to appease the most finicky oenophiles, along with a healthy assemblage of imported and domestic whiskeys, herbaceous liqueurs, and inventive cocktails for guests who can’t tell riesling from rioja.

According to James, the bar’s drink menu has become a reflection of their customers’ tastes, as they adapted to serve what people were asking about. “We have things that I wouldn’t want to drink,” he said. “So if what you want is a well-made wine from a cool producer that I personally don’t want to drink, it’s still on the list. If that makes you happy, I’m happy.”

Jeppson’s Malört is one such liqueur Bonne Chance stocks solely for the customers.

“Malört is disgusting to me,” James said. “But if someone wants to pay for it and drink it, we have Malört.”

The menu doesn’t run cheap, but the Ehrmans’ price points are on par with other craft cocktail bars on Alberta. The $24 appetizer steak might prove hard to share for its perfect seasoning. The $15 house burger and fries taste like what could happen if fast food stayed warm and fresh longer than five minutes.

“It’s spinach, does it have to be $18?” James asked facetiously—their Salad Verte is $9.

“It’s baby spinach, it’s the veal of spinach,” Mark replied snappily.

The menu changes with the seasons and the brothers’ own creative spontaneity, but maintains standards like: a burger, steak, a cheese plate, a salad, a fancy popcorn. “And Mozzarella sticks are a must have!” James and Mark declared emphatically.

James Ehrman keeping things organized behind the bar. Sean Bascom
Cheers! Sean Bascom

Mark loaded my cantaloupe sorbet with frozen blueberries at no extra charge during one of my early, undercover visits, and also offered to make off-menu dinner specials on other trips, like seafood gumbo. There’s no promise what they’ll offer you, but should the Ehrmans offer you a drink or dinner special, you should take it. Their taste level is as remarkable as their commitment to customer service.

Bonne Chance is a dark, cozy lounge centered around an open kitchen and warm wood bar. A mirrored rhino trophy bust catches the brightest light in the room, glittering like a disco ball. Guests can sit at the counter and watch their food cook, or find a booth to bunker down. It’s possible to reserve tables and bar seats, which comes in handy on pop-up nights.

Neighborhood regulars Roderick & Matt having a laugh over house made cocktails. Sean Bascom
Jeff, Tayo, and Anthony (left to right) cracking each other up. Sean Bascom

In 2022, James was hospitalized after an accident and used a wheelchair during his recovery. It inspired the brothers to book Bonne Chance’s open concept kitchen with chefs and food carts, bringing the bar’s high-low philosophy to life. Neighborhood resident Tim Phillips started a dinner series called Melanin Mondays where he served Asian-influenced comfort food like vegetable curry, grilled Caesar salads, and pan-fried, soy sauce-tinged barbeque ribs. Phillips’ family and friends packed in to support during Melanin Mondays’ eight month run.

“He’s also born and raised in this neighborhood, so having this connection with Tim made us more locally involved,” James said.

Nights with Belle Époque pizza and Japanese hot dog connoisseur Pochi’s foie gras-topped franks continue to grace the restaurant’s social media calendar, here and there.

Working with a Thai restaurant pop-up Yui led to the menu’s ginger khon-dii: a coconut milk-based, kaffir lime-infused vodka cocktail that wows with a flow of bittersweet citrus, adjustable spice heat level from ginger and a chili pepper garnish, and a smooth, creamy finish. It was a highlight on the imaginative cocktail menu, along with the sweet and savory fernet, cardamom, and banana-based Bi-Curious George.

The Ol’Connor Tom Collins. Sean Bascom
The Bi-Curious George.  Sean Bascom

Whether they originally intended for Bonne Chance to be a dedicated gay bar, the Ehrman brothers want it to be a place that their queer relatives and friends feel welcome. As queer allies, they understand the responsibility of hanging a Pride flag in their window.

“That rainbow flag does mean something to people when they see it,” James said.

Bonne Chance hosted their first Pride party in 2023, and their second annual Northeast Portland Pride block party is Sat July 20, 3 pm-1 am, promising DJs, Drag performers, and a bubble machine. Over email, the brothers added: “It’s on National Caviar Day, so we are also doing something with that as well.”

Bonne Chance, 2209 NE Alberta, bonnechancepdx.com