April 28, 2013 by John Chilson
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.