Due to pandemic effects or violence, some companies have chosen to depart downtown Portland, but others are working to restore the sense of community and safety.
The new Midtown Beer Garden and food truck pod, which Expensify and restaurant chain Chefstable are hosting and which opens on Sunday, aims to reverse those unfavorable opinions of the neighborhood, according to the event’s organizers.
The building is located on a food cart pod site that once stood on Fifth Avenue but was destroyed by the pandemic.
“We decided that hey, let’s step in and try to make it better for all the carts that made it through all the BS of COVID, and also let’s bring in some new food carts and make it the biggest and best food cart pod downtown,” said project manager Matt Allen. “There’s no better time than now.”
It’s a difficult task considering that businesses of all sizes, from REI to tiny coffee shops, have left the downtown area due to crime and a lack of safety.
Jin Park is taking advantage of the occasion to launch his brand-new food truck, Bop Cha, Eat Korean Food. He has spent more than 15 years working in the local food cart industry and claims to have seen numerous other business owners suffer setbacks.
“As you probably already know, there’s a lot of food carts shutting down right now currently unfortunately, due to the pandemic, due to all the violence that’s happening in Portland,” Park said.
The tweet below confirms the news:
Downtown Portland Sees Signs of Recovery
It has been challenging to recover from the pandemic due to these issues and shrinking companies; according to a study by the Portland Metro Chamber, downtown foot traffic is still 40% lower than it was prior to the pandemic.
People who were out and about on Sunday in the downtown area remarked that improvements like this food cart pod give them hope.
“It has to, I mean, it’s necessary, it’s great, it’s fabulous,” said Portland Streetcar driver David Loftus. “Portland won’t bounce back unless people stand up and declare we’re taking the city back,” the speaker said.
“I just feel like in recent years that downtown area’s just gotten gloomy in a lot of places, and you don’t feel as safe to come down just from people talking about Portland,” said Josh Pontefract, who stopped by to check out the food cart space. “But then you see places like this, and it’s not as bad as what people are saying at all.”
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In the short term, organizers want to clean up a spot for gatherings, food, and music, but in the long run, they want to show what downtown Portland can be once more.
“It’s just an opportunity to revive Portland in a sense,” Park added. “I think this is one of the standing ground of where it can start to bring back people into the city once more, that it’s safe, it’s actually safe, you can enjoy your stay here within the city limits instead of being afraid and being worried to watch your back all the time.”
About 20 food carts are present during the grand launch, but the organizers plan to add at least five more in the upcoming months.
They will be bringing local Portland performers like The Last Artful and Dodgr to the stage on Sunday night.
At the intersection of Southwest Harvey Milk Street and Southwest Fifth Avenue, the event is open from 3 to 8 p.m.
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