Not so very long ago, Portland was absolutely lousy with dive bars. Chris & Tina’s Cafe and Tavern must have been no different from any other. A blue haze of unfiltered cigarette smoke, the stale linger of improperly vented fryer hoods, cracked vinyl booths, and a plastic menu board with RC Cola logos, typical of this kind of establishment.
This, of course, is all romantic conjecture. What we know for certain is that Chris & Tina’s occupied the corner of Union Ave (MLK. Blvd.) and NE. Holladay St. from 1937 to an unknown date. Apparently it was notable enough to merit a column by Doug Baker in the Oregon Journal, who called it the “oldest business on Union Ave”. The site of Chris & Tina’s has been vacant for as long as I can remember and is now owned by PDC. The next-door Teamsters hall was only just recently cleared to make way for a new convention center headquarters hotel.
By the late 60s the area was a dilapidated mess, crisscrossed with freeways, arterials and a patchwork of vacant lots and disused buildings. By the early 80s it had hit rock-bottom. This all changed with the opening of the first MAX line. But as we are about to see, that was not without great controversy and hand-wringing.
On April 6, 1978, approximately 400 persons gathered in the cafeteria of the Floyd Light Middle School to enter their comments into the official public record regarding the proposed Banfield Transitway Project (MAX). One Mrs. Bernice Marcoules spoke passionately in opposition to the proposal which included removal of the driveway to the parking lot of her family’s business: Chris & Tina’s Cafe & Tavern. It was clear to her and many others that the removal of on-street parking and limited access would mean certain death for their struggling businesses. No hope was allowed that MAX might actually improve their standing. Given the horrible state of the surrounding neighborhood, which was mostly attributable to prior transportation interventions, their skepticism was well founded. The implicit idea that patrons to their bar only arrive by automobile is baffling today but clearly in keeping with the time.
Here excerpted is Mrs Marcoules’ statement at the hearing:
In our sub committee meetings it has been said by Highway Department officials and by Tri-Met officials that there is a good chance that our business parking lot driveway would be closed. This action would be disastrous to our in and out trade and customer · service in general. With the removal of on-street parking the business parking lot becomes even more essential. Closing the driveway would also greatly devalue the property.
I would like to quote our Mayor, Neil Goldschmidt, from the Oregonian newspaper last spring where at a meeting concerning the Powell Boulevard Plan., he said “The street was originally given to us to move cars, not park them.”
…It seems odd that Goldschmidt would say such a thing.
According to the Mayor, more emphasis should be placed on off-street parking. In keeping with our Mayor’s suggestion, we feel we must retain our driveway on Holladay Street as an entry and exit to our parking lot. The Light Rail Transit Alternative sounds very glamorous, but how can our economic base handle it? Where will the additional funds come from? We are against a higher payroll tax, higher property taxes, higher gasoline tax, etc. Tri-Met can hardly operate their present system economically. They are proposing fare increases now, what will happen if LRT is adopted? Tri-Met must consider what the public is willing to pay for a mass-transit system.
During one of our meetings that is, our Subcommittee meeting, it was stated that 130 buses would travel Holladay Street during the peak hour traffic. The increase in noise and pollution would be hazardous to the entire area. What livability and livelihood is left in this area would be completely destroyed.
At no time have I ever heard of any study or forecast of what these changes would do to the area economically. In our opinion it is not worth the dollar value involved nor is it worth changing the entire area just to move 8 to 10 thousand people from East Multnomah County to the core area. Furthermore, it is our opinion that our city fathers want to keep our city and its neighborhoods more livable. This certainly cannot be done be destroying businesses in entire areas. To destroy an entire area just to make it a pass through for moving people to the core area is unthinkable.
We sincerely hope that this testimony appears in the public record. We know for a fact that letters have been sent to the editor of the Transitway News in compliance with his or her requests for comments on the Banfield Transitway Project. We have read all the Transitway News publications that have been mailed to us and we could not help noticing that only comments favorable to the project were printed and unfavorable comments were ignored.
In closing, we would certainly like to be kept informed on any decision that is made concerning the Banfield Transitway Project. When the alternative is chosen, we please must keep our Holladay Street driveway, and we must have written assurance that it will be kept open for as long as the business and property stays within our family. If necessary, we will have to engage an attorney to see that these needs of ours are met. Thank you.
In the end, we’ll never know if she ever changed her mind on the merits of MAX, transit or the value of taxes. But we do know it was worth it, even if it meant loosing Chris & Tina’s Cafe.