The Portland indie music scene was grieving, and the feeling was all too familiar. Portland had already lost places like Satyricon, EJ’s, La Luna, and the X-ray Café (the namesake of XRAY.fm). Now, The Know was going to close it doors, a response to a rent increase of 150% at it’s NE Alberta location where it thrived for 12 years as an internationally recognized DIY-ethos music venue; known for giving even the smallest bands the royal treatment – a major cut of the door, excellent acoustics, their own sound engineer, publicity, and a loyal, energetic, often sold-out audience.
Then in late July, after posting a closing announcement, something terrific happened. Co-owners Jessica Hart and Ryan Stowe found Workspace, Urban Nest Realty’s new commercial division. Workspace is devoted to facilitating positive change in Portland through helping Portland sustain its unique character as it grows and changes. Thus, principal broker, Eli Haworth and commercial broker, Liz Getty, were thrilled to usher The Know through the challenges of relocating to a central location with low enough rent to keep shows affordable and a large enough space for the business to expand.
Now, rather than shutting their doors for ever, The Know will be moving to Portland’s Hollywood district on a long-term lease to occupy a space twice as large as their Alberta location at the tight corner of NE Sandy Blvd and NE 37th – a corner with history and legacy in the music scene as the former home of The Blackbird, Tony Starlight’s, and Mazza’s Jazz Club.
Finding the right place for a tenant means more than just price per square foot, location, and building. The right match is about creating a mutually beneficial landlord-tenant relationship that can last years. In the case of The Know, many landlords were less than enthused with the prospect of renting to a rock and roll club. Despite The Know’s reputation as being a good neighbor and community member, they feared loud shows and a troublesome late-night crowd. Getty was persistent. “As a patron and someone who finds great music there often, it was a pleasure pitching The Know to landlords all over town, even if challenging.”
The Workspace team found a landlord for The Know who is former musician and longtime Hollywood resident and local small business/liquor storeowner. He wanted to support historic NE Portland and understood the cultural value of an institution like The Know, which is not just another bar. The right mix of client, commercial broker, and landlord collaborated to bring about a very happy ending to this story. Getty believes, “Karma even exists in commercial real estate – just when everyone was feeling nearly defeated and the unreasonable expectations of many land owners all over town were weighing us down, we met the right people and were able to bring it together!”
Workspace is the brainchild of Eli Haworth who sees the NE Portland community as “something special and unique that deserves to be preserved and enhanced, not just removed for the sake of higher rents and greater profits.” There are ways to prevent artists and small businesses being forced out, but as Haworth notes, “It requires some deftness in understanding the market and seeing and making unique opportunities.”
Workspace hopes to be the connection point to the kinds of businesses and owners who care about the NE Portland community.
A Community Service
As a city of music lovers, Portland has big performance houses like the Aladdin, The Roseland, and Mississippi Studios, but ironically does not have many small- to medium-sized venues. Many smaller bands don’t have outlets to play for audiences. “House” shows are a thing of the past; as neighborhoods changed, and rents increased, musicians are hesitant to put up their houses for shows.
The larger venues around town need smaller venues like The Know to help grow bands — their sound, their following, their skills. The Know has hosted shows from music acts from 60 countries and every single contingent except for Antarctica. In this sense, The Know has helped promote bands into notoriety. After bands get broader audiences and more established, they move up from The Know to larger venues. Big names, like Harrison, The Divers, and the Thermals have loyalty to the smaller scenes they grew out of and love to play The Know, keeping Portland rock-n-roll culture alive and well.
And The Know isn’t just a cool music venue; part of its mission is to provide a comfortable, friendly neighborhood bar that acts as a community hub for neighborhood residents and Portland creatives. Ex co-owner Jessica Hart says that some of The Know’s regulars never attended a single show but went there for the good company. They regularly filled to capacity and host “accidental” events such as a group viewing of the presidential debate or sports games. It has been described as an “accidental sports bar,” the only place in town you can see someone with a tattooed face high five someone in khakis.
The new incarnation of The Know will open its doors sometime in the first quarter of 2017, once some improvements have been made to the three thousand square foot space. Ryan Stowe, who will be the club’s sole owner once it has moved, notes: “This is a great ending to an amazing 12 years on Alberta St. It's going to be really strange to not see all the happy hour regulars that I've seen almost daily for over a decade. I truly hope they can make it over to the new Sandy Blvd spot! Such amazing characters. Maybe they'll come for the fried pickles and curly fries! See you in 2017!”
Written by Matty Byloos and Beth Kaufka
[Image via The Know]
WORKSPACE is a commercial brokerage designed for small business owners, startups, local building owners, and small scale developers. Our deep connections in the community, extensive knowledge of land use, planning and building codes, and our experience working with developers, community businesses and neighborhood stakeholders allow us to take a different approach to real estate transactions. We are facilitators, consultants and advisors more than sales people. We help build and foster community in Portland and see opportunities where others might not.