A group of employees and regular patrons—bartender Bart Yanoch, former Basement Pub manager Nicholas Zerr, Brandon Logan and musician Lewi Longmire—bought the business from previous owners David Lee and Steve Weiland in 2016. Two months ago, the same group began raising funds for a down payment to buy the building, at 2958 NE Glisan St., as well.
On March 30, a day before the end of the campaign, the group surpassed its $135,000 goal. By 1 pm that afternoon, they announced on Facebook that they'd signed the deed.
"I don't know if it's hit home yet, really," says Longmire, who estimates he's played somewhere over 1,000 shows at the Northeast Portland venue over the past 10 years.
Longmire says buying the Laurelthirst property—originally a drug store built in 1911—was part of the plan when they originally took over the bar two years ago. The previous owners had already been approached by developers, and Longmire told WW in 2016 that buying the club was "just putting our bodies in front of the bulldozer."
Longmire says not much about the venue will change. Since taking over the bar, they've already reupholstered some of the booths and updated the food menu, and they plan to install new lighting and upgrade the sound system. Eventually, they'd like to add a green room and a vintage awning to cover the smoking patio. But Longmire says the ultimate goal is for Laurelthirst to remain "a place for the everyman."
"We wanted to keep a place for Portland culture that's affordable for everyone," he says. "We want to give best possible experience to everyone, and figure out a way to make it sustainable in this changing world and changing financial structure of Portland becoming a big city."