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It's last call for The Gresham Inn

Eviction notice forces business to close it doors n Patrons to honor city's oldest bar with celebration on final day

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - Sean Mullins, left, and Christopher Kelly enjoy a beer and conversation at Gresham Inn on Friday, Jan. 23. The Gresham Inn, a long-running Main Avenue watering hole once described as “a working man’s bar since 1879,” will close its doors at the end of January — presumably for good.

Ray Salvi, who’s owned the landmark business at 117 North Main Ave. since 1996, said the building owner sent him an eviction notice on Jan. 6.

The notice indicated the space occupied by The Gresham Inn — known in the 1920s as Murphy’s Pub or casually as Murphy’s Bucket of Blood — must be vacated by Saturday, Jan. 31.

Building owner Mark Darrach, the son-in-law of Anne Geisler, the building’s late owner, offered no explanation for the eviction.

Salvi, who said he’s always paid his monthly rent on time, was shocked to hear that his business and six full-time employees would be forced out of the space.

“He sent an eviction notice, with no reason given," Salvi said. The landlord won’t talk to me. He has the right to evict me (although) I’ve been paying for 20 years on time.”

Aside from brief text messages with Manager Katherine Zornado, Darrach's communication with her and Salvi had been minimal since they received the eviction notice.

In a brief phone chat on Monday morning, Jan. 26, Darrach — identified on his LinkedIn online profile as a botanist with the U.S. Forest Service and consultant with Seattle area-based Corydalis Consulting — said although he “didn’t want to talk” about the matter, The Gresham Inn “place is still gonna be a tavern," presumably after a remodeling and rebranding.

Salvi and Zornado, who received a similarly worded text from Darrach last week, shared the news with bar employees last week.

“We’re all in disbelief,” Zornado said. “We have so many loyal customers. Everyone’s saying, ‘We won’t come back in here if it’s not going to be us (as owners).’”

While the bar’s bevy of loyal longtime patrons are distressed, they plan to celebrate The Gresham Inn’s storied history on Friday, Jan. 30, the tavern’s last day of business under that name.

From 11 a.m. to the 2:30 a.m. closing time on Saturday morning, Customer Appreciation Day will feature drink specials and other customer-friendly offerings all day on Friday.

“The 30th will be Customers’ Day,” said Salvi, who owns “The Gresham Inn” name. “They’re upset too.”

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - Murals depicting past patrons of the Gresham Inn adorn the walls at the old establishment on Main Avenue. Salvi has not had an active lease on The Gresham Inn’s space since the last agreement expired in October 2013. He has rented on a month-to-month basis since Geisler's death and left the property with a family trust.

Salvi, who noted he was trying to be respectful to the family by not pressing business matters, admitted he made a mistake by not negotiating a new lease agreement during the transition period.

“I never got a hold of (Darrach) and he never got a hold of me,” Salvi said. “I thought it was OK. I thought he was dealing with a mother-in-law situation. It’s basically my fault. I admit I’m in the wrong, but he didn’t contact me.”

Zornado said her text-message query to Darrach on Friday evening about his interest in renewing the bar's lease prompted a terse reply — in all capital letters — "NO, I AM NOT INTERESTED."

M. Patton Echols, Darrach’s Gresham-based attorney, did not return phone messages from The Outlook left on Friday and Monday.

Perry Gholston, a Gresham Inn regular for 25 years, prefers to wind down at the cavern-like pub because of “the atmosphere (and) it’s local” and because “everybody knows everybody.”Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - Each seat at the old bar has a memorial plaque in honor of a loyal patron who has died.

A series of small gold plaques that line the vintage, carved wood bar and bear the names of beloved former patrons who’ve passed away hold special meaning to Gholston.

“I know half the people on those plaques,” he said, expressing his sadness about the bar’s imminent closure. “It’s kind of sad. This place has been here forever. It’s a landmark.”

Based on the 1993 book, “Gresham — Stories of Our Past,” edited by W.R. Chilton, the space occupied by the Gresham Inn is the city’s last business establishment selling the same merchandise in the same location since the 1920s.

Daniel Murphy bought the business from Kenneth Roberts, and it gradually became known as “Murphy’s Bucket of Blood,” for reasons that remain cloudy.

Gresham resident Chris Kelly, who’s patronized the Gresham Inn for five years, said it’s a shame to see his honorary “family” broken up with the closure.

“It’s a great place,” he said. “It’s like a little family. Everyone gets along. It’s unfortunate what happened.”Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - Ray Salvi, owner of the Gresham Inn since 1996, talks with customer Tim Johnston.

Gholston said Gresham Inn patrons always look out for each other.

“If someone doesn’t show up one day, someone will call a friend to find out what’s going on,” he said. “It’s pretty much family. We’ve had a lot of fun in here."

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