On the Town
- Phil Stanford
- Portland Tribune - News
Life isn't all cigars and steaks after all
Things are getting a little strange at Harrison Restaurant, the high-end steakhouse on the second floor of the Fox Tower.
Or at least that's where the restaurant used to be.
They moved out in a big hurry Saturday afternoon, just minutes before TMT, the company that owns the building, changed the locks.
What happens next is anybody's guess, because no one is returning phone calls.
Not restaurateur Steve McLain, who also has the chichi Oba in the Pearl as well as the Hall Street Grill in Beaverton.
And certainly not Vanessa Kassab Sturgeon, who now runs TMT, the property management firm founded by her 87-year-old grandfather, Tom Moyer.
One thing for sure, though. For the past several weeks, Harrison has been losing boatloads of business because of all the racket coming from across the street, where crews are constructing a massive six-story underground garage that eventually will lie beneath a new city park.
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According to a reliable source, when business began falling off about three weeks ago, McLain went to TMT to ask for a break on his rent for the duration of the project, which is expected to last 18 to 24 months.
One of the ironies here, of course, is that the land for the park was donated to the city by Moyer himself.
But instead of dealing with Moyer, the worldly-wise ex-boxer who built a theater chain into a real estate empire, McLain found himself talking to the 28-year-old Kassab Sturgeon.
And as Kassab Sturgeon made clear, she liked things the way they were.
When McLain - who holds a 15-year lease on the restaurant space - tried to go around her to get to Moyer, she cut him off at the pass. Moyer, she told him, was in no condition to deal with this matter - and besides, she was in charge.
So McLain started examining his options.
A former waiter says no one knew what was up until the 1 p.m. meeting Saturday. In fact, the hostess was taking reservations right up until then.
However, if anyone had been looking, there were plenty of indications.
During the previous week, restaurant manager Sam Sharaf had gone around asking everyone to save empty boxes, saying he needed them because he was moving himself.
And then there was the couple, a man and a woman from the corporate office, who dropped by to pack up the restaurant's wine. And once the meeting was over, the staff was asked to help load the restaurant's computers on a truck, which then reportedly zipped off to Oba.
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So if this is the sort of thing Kassab Sturgeon intended to prevent by changing the locks, she had to be disappointed.
And we can only imagine how McLain must have felt about the prospect of several years of legal battles over the outstanding portion of his 15-year lease.
As bad as it looks, however, there's still hope.
Over the weekend, one of the town's best fence-menders got through to Moyer, who agreed to meet McLain for coffee Tuesday.
Moyer, who didn't get this rich by being dumb, heard what McLain had to say and told him he'd think it over.
Who knows? When the dust settles, maybe you'll be looking out at the new park from your favorite table at Harrison.