Portland’s iconic 24-hour restaurant, The Roxy, will close permanently this month

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For decades, the neon sign of Roxy Restaurant has shone on SW Harvey Milk Street, a beacon for hangover brunches, late-night pancake-seeking teens and, especially, LGBTQ Portlanders, to the search for respite after nights at Darcelle or Scandals. At the start of the pandemic, the restaurant closed its doors, boarding its windows with plywood. The restaurant briefly reopened and closed in late 2020, and finally, in June 2021, the Roxy fully reopened – not for 24-hour service, but still flipping huge pancakes and fried chicken steaks, hosting live entertainment of dragsters on the street outside the building in what is now called Pride Plaza. However, on March 20 – less than a year after reopening – the Roxy will close permanently.

In a Wednesday evening Facebook post, the Roxy team noted that the restaurant has been struggling since March 2020 and has been unable to recoup losses. When the restaurant first attempted to reopen, in February 2021, owner Suzanne Hale said a fire and resulting water damage forced the restaurant to remain closed for another four months. When the city decided to rehabilitate the building, Hale says they were evicted. “We just lost money since the pandemic,” reads the closing announcement. “Staffing is hard enough these days (for everyone), but with the impending rehabilitation of the building, it’s nearly impossible.”

Between repairing water damage, rising expenses and COVID-19, owner Suzanne Hale says the idea of ​​moving the restaurant and staying afloat was untenable. “The Roxy is a place open 24 hours a day; the night shift paid the bills,” says Hale. “The cemetery is not coming back, the city center is broken… I have no choice, I have no more money.”

Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) spokesman Gabriel Matthews said rehabilitation of the building was needed, especially considering the building had to meet 115 years of updated safety codes; however, PHB had hoped to help keep the Roxy going by helping with the relocation. “As the rehabilitation will take two to three years, our goal was to try to help the Roxy’s stay in business rather than assure them that they would have a space to come back to in the Fairfield,” says Matthews. “The significant fit-out changes … are unlikely to allow retail/restaurant space at the current location of The Roxy. The rehabilitation will also aim to provide more usable space on the ground floor for very low-income residents, many of whom are disabled.

The Hollywood-themed Roxy opened in 1994, in the heart of Portland’s “Burnside Triangle”, “Pink Triangle” or “Vaseline Alley”. It was a neighborhood known for its gay-friendly businesses, with a high concentration of LGBTQ bars and clubs. For decades, Hale – the lovely Suzanne – has been the restaurant’s matriarch, arriving at 6:30 a.m. to make coffee and sweep cigarette butts off the sidewalk.

In the following years, the Roxy became a haven among Portland’s LGBTQ youth: it was one of the few explicitly queer places that someone under 18 could frequent. “Sophomore owner ‘The Lovely Suzanne’ came to speak at a GSA meeting,” writes Thom Hilton in a Portland Monthly room. “She wore pounds of makeup and a dress worthy of a Pride parade; a lunchtime Diva Queen in a hallway full of giggling lacrosse bros. I remember Suzanne telling us that the Roxy wasn’t just a restaurant: it was a safe space for anyone who had nowhere to go.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids grow up and be successful,” says Hale. “I would be hard on them. I would say, “If you’re going to be here, you’re going to behave”, like a mom…but you watch these kids grow into productive, contributing people – there’s a hundred stories like that .”

But the Roxy really was for everyone: tourists came for brunch; the workers came for a small egg and a coffee in the morning. High schoolers would drive through the Roxy after parties or proms. They ate sandwiches and breakfast plates named after Hollywood stars and queer icons, Oregon celebrities and pop culture legends: you could sit down to a John Waters sandwich with ham and black forest cheese; another can dunk Terry Sidie’s chicken strippers on a ranch. He named the dishes as memorials to lost people – from Robin Williams to longtime customers. Soon, the Roxy itself may find itself on a menu elsewhere, a testament to its legacy as a true Portland landmark.

The Roxy is open for limited hours until the 8 p.m., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or later, depending on activity). It is located at 1121 SW Harvey Milk Street. Eater Portland has contacted the Portland Housing Bureau for more information, and this story will be updated with more information.

Updated March 17, 2022, 6:14 p.m.: This story has been updated with a comment from owner Suzanne Hale.

Correction, Mar 18, 2022, 12:33 p.m.: This story has been corrected to show that Eater contacted the Portland Housing Bureau, not the Portland Housing Authority.

Updated March 22, 2022, 12:29 p.m.: This story has been updated to include comments from the Portland Housing Bureau.

• The Roxy
• Roxy’s Closing Announcement
• Nights at the Roxy, a queer haven for all ages
• Roxy owner Suzanne Hale on a ‘Day in the Life’ at the 24-Hour Downtown Diner

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