When Jimmy Mak's closed at the end of 2016, Portland jazz lost its epicenter. Now, a year and a half later, new owners are working to reopen the legendary jazz venue.
The new Jimmy Mak's will take over Oba Restaurant's former space in the Pearl, just a few blocks from the jazz club's original location, according to OLCC filings.
Real estate broker Mert Meeker, who is a consultant on the project, confirmed the new location with WW, but stressed that the new venture is still in the preliminary stage.
"There's still some due diligence we're doing on our end," says Meeker.
Two of the club's former employees, JD Stubenberg and Lisa Brandon-Boyle, are behind the reopening, along with an investment group called Friends of Jimmy Mak's. The new owners have been working to revive the club since it closed, just a day before the venue's owner and namesake, Jim Makarounis, died following a battle with larynx cancer.
"The concept was endorsed by Jimmy himself," Meeker says. "He knew exactly what we we were going to do."
Jimmy Mak's opened on NW 9th Avenue in 1996, and moved across the street a decade later. In its 20 years of existence, it became the primary home for Portland jazz, where local luminaries like drummer Mel Brown played weekly gigs. In early 2016, it was announced that the venue had been sold to developers and planned on relocating. But Makarounis had long been fighting cancer, and when his health took a turn for a worst, the club decided to close permanently.
When the Jack London Revue opened last summer, the venue began booking musicians who were regulars at Jimmy Mak's. But the void left by Jimmy Mak's can still be felt.
The new owners plan on expanding the club's programming.
"It will not be exclusively a jazz venue," says Meeker. "It will be really more of a music venue."
Still, Meeker says the club intends to book regulars from the old days.
"Mel Brown was the house band for many, many years, and our intent would be to continue that relationship with Mel," he says.
They hope to reopen the club in 2019.