PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — One of the reasons Michael Madigan opened a wine bar at Northwest 7th and Everett is because he loved the location. It seemed to be a perfect spot when Remedy Wine Bar opened in 2013.
“Being right here on the Park Blocks is fantastic,” Madigan told KOIN 6 News. “I own 3 businesses within one-square block, so it’s very convenient as well.”
When the weather is nice, the trees are in bloom and the grass is growing, it’s beautiful, he said. “We sit here with these windows open and it’s like you bring the park into the space.”
But Summer 2015 was different. He said last year was all about keeping the park out of his bar.
“One day in June, I turned the corner here on Everett and there were 42 people camping outside. I counted,” he said.
Homeless sweeps on the east side had people setting up camp in the North Park blocks. Madigan saw drug use, drug dealing, public indecency and people being harassed.
The issue continued, and Madigan said the most annoying part that “ultimately cost us our guests and our customers is the city didn’t do anything to address the crime that followed with it.”
Customers stopped coming. “We saw a 50% dropoff in business between May and June and it stayed that way until October.”
In a Tuesday post on the Remedy Wine Bar Facebook page, Madigan said the homeless campers, “accompanying drug use and other crimes” made it seem impossible to continue at that location.
Citing “an influx of homeless campers” that damaged their “business beyond repair,” he announced the bar isn’t renewing its lease.
“…(W)e have no confidence that the city will address the underlying issues in time to prevent similar events this coming summer,” the post said.
His lease is up in April, he said, and it didn’t make sense to renew for 4 more years without any assurances from the city the homeless issue would be fixed, or even addressed.
“Our guests never came back,” he said. “We had referral arrangements with a lot of downtown hotels. They stopped recommending that people come down here.”
‘City too slow to respond and acknowledge’
Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman agreed there was an unaddressed problem in the summer of 2015.
“Certainly last summer was tumultuous for many businesses and residents in the North Park blocks,” he told KOIN 6 News. “This summer will be a real test for the city and its ability to enforce laws around our parks and no sleeping in the parks.”
Saltzman said the PPB and the Parks Bureau weren’t on the same page last year. “We were too slow to even respond and acknowledge that this problem was getting out of control.”
Businesses and residents in the area made their voices heard about how bad it was, so, he said, the city knows if they don’t do something the problem will repeat itself. He wants the mayor and the parks commissioner to “really be more consistent in messages around enforcing basic quality of life laws.”
The City of Portland declared a state of emergency on homelessness, opening shelters and investing in affordable housing.
“But in the summer time in particular a lot of time people just aren’t interested in the shelters,” he said. “They just want a place to do drugs, sleep, be left alone. So I can sit here and talk about shelters and affordable housing but that’s really not going to affect this problem.”
It may help on the margins, he said, but the homeless influx in the summer “is happening in every city on the West Coast.”
What’s next for Madigan
“What we tried to make, this is a comfortable place for people to sit down in an unpretentious way and enjoy some wines,” he said.
The decision to close was heartbreaking, he said, “but there’s no way the business would have been able to thrive here.”
Madigan said he understands the homeless problem is complicated.
“Homelessness is an issue in Portland that is greater than some inconveniences with businesses on the North Park blocks. The extremely frustrating part of it was the lack of response from the city.”
The current spot will close on January 30 and Madigan said they intend to re-open in another location soon.