Local reveals O'Connors' successor
Jonathan Loomis empathizes with those lamenting the closure of O'Connors Restaurant and Bar, which offered food and live music in Multnomah Village for over eight decades, and said no establishment could possibly hope to replicate its homey charm. Nevertheless, he encourages locals to give its successor — Gastro Mania — a try. "We will never replace it (O'Connors) but we think it's going to offer some great things: Amazing food, very reasonable prices and I think people will enjoy themselves here," Loomis said. Loomis and his business partners bought the O'Connors buildings from Steve Arel, Loomis's uncle-inlaw. Then, Loomis enlisted Gastro Mania, a Mediterranean restaurant currently located in downtown Portland, to open for business at the former Southwest Portland landmark. Like O'Connors, the property's annex will feature live music and private events and Loomis expected the business to open within the next couple months when he talked with the Connection in midAugust. Loomis grew up in Southwest Portland and graduated from Wilson High School and University of Oregon. Later, he served as the director of finance at Oregon Health and Science University before starting the apparel company Baseballism with college friends. The company offers baseball-themed apparel that is not team-specific. Loomis worked at O'Connors in high school but was initially uninterested in the idea of owning the property, before eventually deciding that it could be a prudent real estate ac
quisition. "I'm not passionate about running a restaurant. I think it sounds cool but I don't have any experience with it. The reason I did this was, one, the family connection and being able to carry on a legacy of being connected to the building and the legacy in some way," Loomis said. Baseballism's headquarters is located in downtown Portland and Loomis often frequented Gastro Mania for a bite to eat. He champions many of the restaurant's offerings including their octopus salad, shrimp burritos, foie gras burgers and lamb plates. The Gastro Mania owner, Alex Nenchev, grew up in Bulgaria and has owned restaurants in Bulgaria and Germany. Gastro Mania was initially a food cart in downtown Portland before becoming a brick and mortar restaurant. Along with lunch and dinner throughout the week, it will offer brunch on the weekends. "We went to someone and said 'Hey, we love your food. We love what you do culinary-wise. We'd love for you to be our tenant," Loomis said. "He brings a quality of food
that is rare to find in my opinion and then you square that with what's currently offered in our market ... We're taking a great idea and putting it in a market where there is nothing like it." Multnomah Village has undergone considerable business turnover in recent months. But Loomis was not deterred by the trend. He also isn't shying away from the potential need to shore up unreinforced masonry in the coming years due to the City of Portland's push for mandatory seismic upgrades. "It's certainly this weird moment in the village's history. When you really peel back the onion ... why is there so much vacancy? There is a totally reasonable explanation found in every single one of the vacancies and they just happened to be happening at the same time," Loomis said. Loomis was in the midst of managing the remodel in August. He said the space will look similar structurally but include different furnishing and color schemes than O'Connors. He said the color scheme will imbue a darker palette with some grey and gold accents and he wants to develop a "cozy" atmosphere. Loomis surmises that the space will feature a similar allotment of live music as O'Connors. "Music was (Steve's) thing. He would be at the front door taking the $5 cover charges; he was in it," Loomis said. "Alex is probably going to be more of the food guy but Alex is hiring someone who is going to be his right hand person and they're going to manage the event space." Loomis was excited to finish the remodeling and licensing process, get the business up and running and hand over the reins to Nenchev. "I'm invested in bringing something to this neighborhood that I think is missing or I think would do well here," he said. "I'm very proud about being able to bring something great here."