PORTLAND, Ore. -- The restaurant business is tough, especially in Portland where people have so many options.
But a new venture in the Pearl District hopes it can both fill a niche, and give back with every order.
Pearl Tavern is in the former Parish restaurant space on Northwest 11th Avenue and Everett Street. Its grand opening is Thursday, Dec. 1, and there are a few well-known names attached to it.
Inside, the five televisions are hung up, the bar is stocked and food is getting prepped. Former Oregon Ducks and NFL quarterback Joey Harrington is one of three co-owners of Pearl Tavern. Harrington currently works for KGW.
"People hear my name and automatically think it's a sports bar," he said. But Harrington wants you to know this is more about honoring the state of Oregon. Sports are on TVs, and local sports memorabilia hangs on the walls, but the Pearl Tavern has another mission.
Three percent of the restaurant's profits are going to the Harrington Family Foundation.
"This scholarship helps Oregon high school students continue their education in the state," Harrington said. This year the foundation has put 16 students in colleges around Oregon, with $10,000 scholarships each. Pearl Tavern will put the nonprofit on track to help more kids.
"It's a really difficult time right now in the restaurant industry," according to tavern co-owner and ChefStable restaurant group founder Kurt Huffman, who made headlines earlier this year predicting the demise of some very well known Portland restaurants.
Huffman has 28 restaurants under his belt. He says profit margins are slimmer than ever with high rents, rising minimum wage and cooks who can afford to be picky about where they work because the city has so many restaurants.
"Right now in Portland, you need to have an angle or a hook or something that needs to make your space," Huffman said. "The food can't just be great, the beverages can't just be great, there's got to be something more. There's so many choices and that's where the involvement with Joey and the partnership that made it feel like, okay that's our angle."
He says Pearl Tavern will pair high end food, everything from wings and hamburgers to filet mignon and prawns, with Rip City's love of competition.
"We don't want to beat people over the head with the sports stuff," Huffman said. "We designed the whole space so you can be eating in one of our booths and not even know that there's sports on TV. We want it to be a little bit subtle in the approach."
Ryan Magarian, Portland's bartender guru at Oven + Shaker and Hamlet, as well as developer of Aviation Gin, is also a co-owner at Pearl Tavern.
"This feels comfortable. I feel like I know who's coming. I have a sense of what the room needs to channel and what types of comfort people are looking for in terms of food and drink," Magarian said. "People love to gather around and watch a game. I know when me and my friends watch a game, there's usually good food and good drinks. So I guess I'm trying to create that environment in downtown Portland."