The Beloved Dive Bar Holman’s Remains in Pandemic Purgatory

It hasn’t bounced back yet, but the owner says, “Holman’s won’t die.”

Address: 15 SE 28th Ave.

Year built: 1908

Square footage: 11,173 (includes other storefronts)

Market value: $4.1 million

Owner: Bill Craine

How long it’s been unused: Nearly 3 years

Why it’s empty: Pandemic hangover, old age

In March 2020, when Oregon abruptly shut down for the pandemic, Holman’s, a Buckman neighborhood fixture for 80 years, put a handwritten sign in the window.

“Booze is all gone,” the sign said. “Reopen when Kate says so. Godspeed.”

But nearly three years later, and long after Gov. Kate Brown greenlighted bars and restaurants to reopen, Holman’s remains shuttered. A plate-glass window reveals a barely started renovation project, watchdogged by a life-sized replica St. Bernard, whose glum expression matches the sadness of regulars who counted on Holman’s’ modest atmosphere, welcoming patio, pioneering bloody mary bar, and perilously large selection of whiskeys.

Before it closed, Holman’s offered late-night diners a chance to spin a wheel—if the red arrow pointed to the right spot, dinner was free. More than 17,000 customers won.

Bill Craine, who ran Holman’s with his sister Judy, believes there’s still a demand for generous pours and basic foods amid 28th Avenue’s vibrant restaurant scene.

“I own the body shop around the corner, and in 1977, I bought Holman’s because I needed a place to eat,” Craine says. He is confident there’s still a market for Holman’s food. “Too many of the new restaurants don’t understand that people still like grease,” he says.

Craine, 80, also owns adjacent property to the north, which houses a thrift shop and a Fifty Licks ice cream shop. A lot of people, including prospective buyers, have asked about his plans. He hopes to finalize them in the next three or four months.

“At my age, I’ve kind of enjoyed not going to work,” he says.

That feeling and a tight labor market have slowed the bar’s rebirth. “I’ll either reopen or sell the place,” Craine says. “But either way, Holman’s won’t die.”

Every week, WW examines one mysteriously vacant property in the city of Portland, explains why it’s empty, and considers what might arrive there next. Send addresses to newstips@wweek.com.