Not even possession of Portland’s largest outdoor patio can prevent a bar from folding during the ongoing pandemic.
Pearl District cocktail lounge Botanist, which relocated during the pandemic to survive outbreak-related business restrictions, announced last week on its social media platforms that it is closed for good.
“Not entirely sure how to write this, but sadly Botanist is closed,” the post stated. “COVID came and between trying to help the community, supporting those that were worse off than ourselves we made the choice to move upstairs. And while that choice was probably the only one that we had, it then became an impossible journey that we can no longer weather.”
The bar originally opened in 2018, beneath a shuttered Office Depot, at the corner of Northwest Lovejoy Street and 13th Avenue. However, once pandemic dining restrictions were put in place, that subterranean location couldn’t safely host customers.
Botanist’s owners then made the decision to move the entire operation up and out across the elevated courtyard to prime real estate once occupied by the perennially disappointing On Deck Sports Bar. With 8,000 square feet of outdoor space, it appeared that the cocktail bar had made a successful pandemic pivot. The patio even began hosting live music and standup comedy to attract business.
Botanist also made headlines several times during the past 19 months. First, the bar was lauded for its efforts to deliver free meals to out-of-work service industry workers. Then last fall, as the business approached another state-mandated dining freeze, owner Matt Davidson released a public letter declaring that on the day before Thanksgiving, Botanist would start selling cocktails to-go even though that was against Oregon law at the time.
The promised act of civil disobedience was a way to prompt Salem to call a special session in which lawmakers could legalize the sale of mixed drinks via pickup or delivery. That December, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill allowing just that. Takeout cocktail sales were then legalized permanently this past June.
In the end, Botanist’s owners say that staffing shortages, razor-thin profit margins further tested by rising supply costs, and the unpredictability of a regular customer base during winter forced them to make the difficult decision to close.