Clyde Common, the downtown restaurant credited with helping transform the Portland food scene over a decade ago, will close permanently as a result of financial hardships stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
Co-owner Nate Tilden says he plans to eventually reopen in the same space with a drastically scaled-down concept. But in an email to staff obtained by WW, Tilden informed employees yesterday they will not be getting their jobs back.
Tilden—who also owns several other restaurants and bars, including Olympia Provisions and Spirit of 77—writes that he applied for several emergency loans but did not get approved.
The business did receive a loan from the Small Business Administration's Payroll Protection Program, but Tilden says it would not benefit employees to use the money to rehire them in the current environment, which would force them back to work at a quarter of their normal pay—in some cases less than what they are currently making through unemployment.
Instead, part of the loan would go toward rent, while leaving the rest in the bank.
In an effort to honor the restaurant's existing lease, Tilden will first convert the space into a marketplace selling dry goods and to-go sandwiches. He says he will run the counter himself, possibly with family members and volunteers, and not take a salary.
"Our goal is to bring some level of business to our door while we wait for whatever the future brings," the email reads. "The Ace Hotel has been closed since April 1, and they have no idea when they will be able to reopen. I fear there will be zero business on our block for a long time."
When dine-in restaurants are allowed to begin operating again, Tilden then plans to pivot to a smaller, tavern-style model. He may hire back a small handful of employees.
Clyde Common opened at 1014 SW Harvey Milk St., then called Stark Street, in 2007, on the ground floor of the Ace Hotel. It was hailed for both its approach to American cuisine and for bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler's inventive cocktails.
WW wrote in 2015 that it "cemented the form of the New Portland restaurant" upon opening, with an "open kitchen, rustic small plates, meat boards, shared tables and svelte hosts and hostesses who seem like stylish acquaintances disappointed in how you dress."
Line cook Mike Kapski says the announcement of the closure is "a gut punch," and questions why Tilden is not doing more to assist employees.
"For all of talk of the 'Clyde Common family,' when push comes to shove, it's a family when it's beneficial to the owner," Kapski says. "It feels very disingenuous."
Tilden disputes that.
"I'm trying to find a way to bring the business back that contributes to the employees' paychecks and retirement fund, and brings a sense of normalcy back," he says.
This post has been updated to add comments from Nate Tilden.