The Reel M Inn has been saved.
Earlier this year, WW reported that Portland's most beloved home to chicken and jojos would likely close when its lease ended at the end of 2018.
In February, Reel M Inn owner Paul Meno told WW that when the bar's lease expired, it would be the end of the bar "unless the landlord has a change of heart." At the time, Meno said, his landlord had told him a mixed-use building was planned for the site. "He's set in stone there," Meno said at the time.
But in April, Chris Briggs, restauranteur Kurt Huffman's partner at Loyal Legion beer bar, bought the Reel M Inn property and filed exploratory paperwork to place a brewery in the spot next to Reel M Inn.
Huffman tells WW all plans for the property are up in the air, with one exception. "The only thing that is for sure is that he has no intention of doing anything with Reel M Inn," says Huffman. "It's amazing the number of people who have contacted me in a full panic about what was happening."
Reel M Inn bar manager Carey Bolton—quite possibly the hardest-working bartender in Portland, working both the taps and the very busy broaster—told us the same. "In my mind he was wearing a superhero cloak when he walked in," she said of Briggs.
"The new owners have no desire to knock this down, they're renewing. It's so nice to have an iconic dive bar stay," she says. "Everyplace else is getting torn down. But Reel M Inn is here to stay. It's so nice to finally be able to say that."
But even though Reel M Inn is staying, its owner is moving on. Meno will pass the bar along to Bolton, and is retiring to Arizona after 19 years of owning the bar, originally founded by Bill and Sherri Purdy in 1994. (It was the Spill M Inn before that, Hogan's before that, and the Lion's Den all the way back in the '60s.)
Bolton said she signed the paperwork with Meno on Friday to take over the bar, effective next year.
"Paul has been so great mentoring," says Bolton, who says Meno is in the process of retiring to Arizona. "It all started when dozens of people started coming in a day, asking: What's going on with the place? I heard it was closing? So we started talking about what we would do."
Bolton says she and Meno talked it over for months, as the news came in that Reel M Inn would be able to renew its lease.
"I love this place," she says. "I've been in the industry since I was 14 years old as a dishwasher, and this is the best place I've ever been in my life, with the best regulars. I didn't want to get another job. I didn't want to work anywhere else."
Bolton says Reel M Inn is an essential part of the character of the city.
"Every month it seems like you hear about another old place closing, this place and then that place and then that place. It just sucks. Portland is getting a little too fancy," Bolton says. "Everything on this strip is so fancy and bougie. We're the salt."