If nothing changes, Magoo’s Bar & Grill, an established neighborhood institution on Northeast 42nd Avenue in the Cully neighborhood, will close its doors for the last time on Friday, July 17.
The business has been sold to make way for the opening of a new restaurant, Pizza Jerk, the latest offering from Bunk Sandwich’s Tommy Habetz, an established player in Portland’s burgeoning food scene.
Many neighbors were disappointed to be losing the longtime gathering place and there are concerns within the business community about competition with existing businesses. 42nd Avenue has long been anchored by Roses Ice Cream and Rocket Pizza, which sit directly across the street.
On Tuesday, July 14, Michael DeMarco, district manager of Our 42nd Avenue, convened a discussion group at the Magoo’s site to listen to community concerns and to discuss desired outcomes. More than 35 people attended the afternoon session and many were unhappy with the news of Magoo’s closing.
Magoo’s has been a neighborhood trouble spot in the past, but Gina Landtiser, the bar’s manager, has worked hard to improve the establishment’s image and has engaged the community in her efforts. “I’ve wanted to be a part of this community ever since I started here,” she said. “And that’s what I’ve done.”
“We’ve worked to build this, to make it inclusive and to make it special,” said Myo DeMayo, the Cully Farmers Market manager who had collaborated with Landtiser to secure additional space for the market in Magoo’s parking lot. “I don’t like that this is happening without our consent.”
Landtiser had plans in the works to make an offer to buy the business herself. Many in the room expressed an interest in helping her to do that, including some who offered financial backing. While the bar’s closure seems inevitable, Landtiser is keeping her options open, including the possibility of re-opening the business in another location.
“Our mission is to find ways to help this community grow that won’t push people out,” DeMarco said. “We want to make sure that all the members of our community have a place. No matter what happens here.”
“We always have an opportunity to change what’s in front of us, if we work together,” said Tony DeFalco, Living Cully coordinator. “This happened in Mississippi. It happened in Alberta. Now it’s happening here. It’s heartbreaking. We can preserve diversity. We can have a thriving business district. This is a prized neighborhood and I’m proud to live here.”
“I don’t think anyone should be forced out,” said Clarence Larkins, Straight Path president. “That’s why we’re here.”