On the imminent closing of the Black Cat in Sellwood


April 28, 2013 by John Chilson


Back in the day: SE 13th in Sellwood.

On their Facebook page, the owners of the Black Cat Tavern in Sellwood announced that they are shutting down their bar on June 30. The property owners are most certainly going to demolish the bar and – I’m taking a wild guess here – are going to build mixed-use condos.

That might be a good thing for the neighborhood. More density, more shops on the ground floor, and for neighbors, the backyard section of the bar will no longer annoy them.

But, really, it’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s very bad.

It’s a typical neighborhood bar, bordering on dive, but not quite. They sell the usual bar fodder and offer shuffleboard, a popular attraction for patrons. But it’s more than a bar. It’s a part of a Portland that’s quickly disappearing. Portland’s blue collar heritage is definitely becoming a thing of the past – and so are bars where locals, younger families, and grizzled old Portlanders can rub shoulders and get a cold one.

When an establishment like the Black Cat gets clobbered, it’s gone, and so is the fabric of the neighborhood with it. Places like the Black Cat don’t get the ink that, say, a historically significant building would if it was threatened by the wrecking ball. But, they’re just as important to our communities and what makes Portland’s neighborhoods special and livable.

But what’s one neighborhood bar, right? To the immediate neighbors, they’ll notice, they’ll mourn and life goes on (and so does the new condo). But yet another bar or small restaurant or small mom/pop shop down the street or in another neighborhood gets bulldozed, and things start to add up. Until one day, Portland looks around and wonders what happened to its past, character and its place.

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8 thoughts on “On the imminent closing of the Black Cat in Sellwood

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I’m happy to life in a neighborhood where I can walk to a nearby bar with live music and all sorts of ages who come out to enjoy it, no cover charge–the Blue Diamond at NE 20th and NE Sandy. The food and drink is good, the owners and staff are great! Sad for this part of Sellwood and for Portland.

  2. Marcia Staunton says:

    Just like they have ruinedUionAve. We tend to tear down rather the reuse. Portland sayswerecycle,well the proof is we do not. Remodel but do not tear down.

  3. bojack says:

    When Tom Moyer knocked down the Virginia Cafe downtown, he cursed that real estate forever. Now it’s a hole in the ground, and in his family’s wallet. One hopes that the cr-apartment peddlers who are probably behind this one get theirs, too.

  4. Jim Wood says:

    I’ve been in the crawlspace below the Black Cat. That building is ready to fall down. Historic preservation is great but that place has not been maintained.

  5. Sam says:

    Nice post.

    “Until one day, Portland looks around and wonders what happened to its past, character and its place.”

    Capping reservoirs, nixing Fareless Square, fluoridating the water, and defunding Mounted Patrol are more paper cuts bleeding our City of Roses’ character. Yes, the Streetcar may be slow and expensive but it’s awesome, unusual, and reliable.

  6. buddeehollee says:

    Black Cat going-away celebration. Sunday, Aug 11th: http://www.facebook.com/events/572255512824544/

  7. Karl Sand says:

    Joes Cellar on the ropes, now the Black Cat and this Saturday Luckys on ne 28th is closing.

    I miss Portland and hate these sleek glass nightmares that are replacing everything worth a damn.

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