Alfredo Climaco, who opened the vibrant cocktail bar Tropicale on Northeast Glisan Street just six months ago, died yesterday at age 32. The cause of death was COVID-19, according to a post on the business's Facebook page.
Climaco became a favorite presence at events like the Portland Night Market and other assorted street fairs by selling piña coladas in hollowed-out pineapples. In 2020, he made the jump from cart to brick-and-mortar, in a space with coral walls, open-weave pendant lights and a mural of a Mexican cliff diver making his leap along one wall.
Although Climaco was known for his piña coladas, he also had a passion for mezcal and kept one of the finest collections in Portland at his bar. He developed his passion for the smoky spirit thanks to his father, who grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico, the mezcal capital of the world. Climaco was raised in the neighboring state of Puebla, and the two would make trips to Oaxaca in order to work their way through flights at the region's numerous mezcalerias.
Climaco moved to Portland in 2010 following an already long-established career in the service industry after starting as a bartender at the age of 17. Once here, he continued to work in restaurants while taking English and business classes at Portland Community College.
According to a post on Tropicale's Facebook page, that bar was just the beginning of Climaco's ambitious plans.
"Tropicale was his first bar, but Alfredo had a vision for a cocktail empire," the statement read. "With all of this growth, he also wanted to give back to the local restaurant community. He was adamant about lifting up others, especially the Portland Mercado community that supported him from the beginning."
Tomorrow, there will be an altar placed at Tropicale for anyone who wishes to pay tribute to Climaco at his bar. There is also a GoFundMe campaign to help cover Climaco's medical and funeral expenses. Money raised will also go toward a donation in his name to his Portland Mercado family.