Oregon History Portland History

On the imminent closing of the Black Cat in Sellwood

The Black Cat Tavern in Sellwood announced that they are shutting down their bar on June 30. I’m taking a wild guess here -coming next: mixed-use condos.

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.

11 replies on “On the imminent closing of the Black Cat in Sellwood”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I restored a condemned house on the corner of SE 15th and Lexington, lived there for over a dozen years, and had occasion to swing into the Black Cat. With the exception of Kay’s, just about every watering hole in Sellwood was a smoky dive with bad food and crumby beer. I was born in Portland and raised by a Norwegian family of carpenters. I have nine historical renovations to my credit, but I’m not bemoaning the demise of the stinky old Black Cat or others like it. Some places transitioned into great spots, like the old Leipzig Tavern, but not Pogo’s, the Cat, or the joint on the SE corner of Milwaukie and Bybee (Penguin?). Like many I chagrin at expeditious infill, but when property owners do little to nothing to maintain their structures, I have little sympathy when the old buildings come down. Gentrification is being blamed for the development in North and NE Portland, but little was done by the now displaced residents in the way of viable businesses or development. Many forget or never knew how bad SW Macadam was before its development. When we demolished the old B.P. John’s factory off SW Boundary, we salvaged the beams, wood framing, and hardware, much of which went into “the Landing” project and two houses we built on Blue Lake. You’ll now see those white plaster condominiums and marina off Macadam that has anchored that section of town for close to twenty years at that once blighted location. So, so long to the ‘Cat’, and Joe’s Cellar in the NW, Pal’s Shanty on Sandy, the Egyptian on Union, the Sombrero on SW 2nd, the Chocolate Moose on 2nd & Ankeny, the Jolly Rodger on 39th & Powell, to name a few “joints”. I guess we’ll just have to buy our Heidelberg, Oly, Schlitz, and Burgermeister at a store somewhere.

Good points, Steve. I worked on sewer project in front of the Black Cat & was afraid someone was going to get hurt by that building.

I am so sad that this place didn’t survive. I grew up in sellwood, had my first 21st birthday drink at this place as did all my siblings. This should be one of those forever bars owned by the community lol. Actually my parents could have owned it for all the time they spent there. Great shuffleboard tournaments are forever lost as well as the patrons of this bar.

Sad and disappointed,
Rita Raihl (Bashaw)

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