There wasn't another bar in Portland anything like Blackwell's Grubsteak Grill.
Jan DeLorme's Hollywood dive was half well-liquor watering hole, half family room complete with an unholy and mismatched wealth of holiday decor—it always felt like a holiday in there—and half curio cabinet of Portland history, with a grab bag of artifacts piled in the back room and walls full of photos taken with famous sports figures, not least of which Michael Jordan.
For 35 years DeLorme presided over the bar with a certain hard-boiled indulgence—you could be whoever you wanted, but no nonsense was tolerated. And if you wanted to use the bathroom without buying a drink, it would cost you 50 cents.
"It's been 35 years since it was the Mandarin," says her son Charlie DeLorme, referring to the long-running Chinese restaurant that preceded Blackwell's in the space. "She bought it from Ronnie Hing, and she was dating Ronnie Hing."
But DeLorme had been in ill health and went into hospice care at the beginning of January, finally passing this week. On January 15, the house band began their set with a performance of "Jan's Song." Patrons, family and barstaff held a celebration of DeLorme on Saturday, January 20.
According to Charlie De Lorme, the family didn't decide until Sunday morning that they would close the bar rather than trying to keep it open after her death.
De Lorme says the family had considered selling the place before now ,and had heard rumors that others were interested. "Now that we're actually closing," he says, "they're coming out of the woodwork."
But for now, he's busy cleaning up his family's business.
"I've been slowly cleaning everything off the walls," he tells WW. "She kept this place alive with toothpicks. And now I'm finding all the toothpicks."