After years of seeing bars close, downtown Portland's gay scene will get a big new nightclub as soon as this year.
Last November, Portlanders mourned when nightclub Embers announced it would close after 48 years as a bastion of gay culture at the edge of Old Town—an unusually sudden end that came about after the owner suffered what the club called a "massive stroke."
But the new business owner in the space, TJ Bruce, says he plans to "carry on the tradition" in the former Embers space at 110 NW Broadway by opening a new gay dance club called Badlands, as soon as this summer—although timing will depend heavily on the level of renovations needed.
Bruce is a 20-year veteran opening bars, with another spot called Badlands in Sacramento, plus three different nightclubs called Splash in Fresno, San Jose and Reno. He says he hopes to bring much of the same vibe to the Portland Badlands as at his previous Splash locations. His two-story, video-screen-packed San Jose location was apparently the most popular Lyft location in the Bay Area, potential good news for a Portland gay bar scene that hasn't seen a high-profile opening in years.
Bruce says it was his local ties that led to him taking over the former Embers space. "My family lives on the Oregon coast, he says. "I come up here often, and I've become enamored with the space."
Bruce, who also works as a contractor, will do his own renovations on Badlands, and hopes to begin construction within the next couple months.
He also says his new lease gives a strong option to buy the building, allowing him to remain in the space for the long haul. “I plan to put in substantial work,” he says. “It’s about coming up with a plan for the first year, and then a long term plan. It’s a big project.”