SubTerra reopens under new ownership
In the lower level of a small office building at 1505 Portland Road, activity has picked up in recent weeks. Workers completed the finishing touches on renovations, food was delivered and increased foot traffic have led to an important moment on July 20: SubTerra is open once again.
The new owners of the restaurant, Javier Santos and Stephanie Fagerstrom, bought the restaurant from previous owners Janice and Martin Bleck and had hoped to open earlier, but uncertainty with COVID-19 restrictions along with other factors led to a delay. Now, however, those interested in dining at SubTerra finally can do so.
"It was a good chunk of time," Santos said. "We'd talked about a May opening initially, but with everything we needed to get done it took more time than we'd anticipated. We decided we wanted to be 100% ready when we opened, even if that meant taking a few extra weeks to get stuff done.
"We wanted to make sure to give our staff the opportunity to start well. It's a new menu and a new (point of sale) system, and we have some employees who have come through with us from the previous iteration of Subterra. As much as we're excited to open our doors and get guests coming through, we want to make sure our staff has the tools to be successful."
The soft opening for SubTerra took place July 20 and reservations are recommended. Walk-in customers are welcome, but seating in the dining room portion of the new layout will be provided first to those with reservations. SubTerra's hours, for now, are 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
"It's very commonplace nowadays to have the reservation aspect," Santos said. "A lot of our tables will come through reservation, but we're also adding the ability to seat guests at the bar on a first come, first served basis. Before the renovations, we were only able to seat about six people at the bar, and now we can do about 15 or 16 customers. Reservations are always encouraged, but any last-minute outings that people have can always be accommodated with seating in the bar area."
Initially, there were plans to open a bottle shop as well in the restaurant to make up for potential lost revenue from COVID-related capacity restrictions. Now that those restrictions have been lifted, though, the bottle shop plan has been tabled for the time being to focus on serving customers in a dining capacity.
"When we were making initial plans, we were still under pretty significant restrictions with takeout only," Fagerstrom said. "Originally, we had focused on opening a bottle shop as a priority because we weren't able to have as many guests in the restaurants. We pivoted when we began to hear that restrictions would ease, and our priorities shifted.
"You only get one opportunity to make a first impression. If people were to come in and start eating, we want to make sure we're properly introducing ourselves and focusing on that dining experience. That's where our focus has been for the last few weeks."
SubTerra aims to open on Mondays as well in the future, but for now it will be open five days per week and closed on Sundays and Mondays. For more information on the restaurant and the changes it's made, visit www.subterrarestaurant.com. To make reservations, call 503-538-6060.
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