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With all the changes in Multnomah Village, preserving one old tavern makes sense

Renner's Grill at 7819 S.W. Capitol Highway is an institution in Multnomah Village, and the sign out front is iconic.

Those two words — institution and iconic — are grossly overused these days. But in the case of Renner's Grill, they fit.

The decades-old tavern has been shuttered since the end of March because of a two-alarm fire caused by flames from the grill igniting grease in the hood vent system. Extensive repairs are needed.

Why do we care?  What makes Renner's Grill an institution rather than just another tavern?

Well, it's been there a very long time — some say more than a century — and that's the classic definition of institution: a person or thing long established in a place. As for that iconic sign, if you know when it first went up and under what circumstances please let me know by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. It is definitely iconic in the sense of "something that defines an era," but I'm just not sure which era.

The only time I went to Renner's Grill was back in 2008, when I stopped by for what I thought was a campaign event for Steve Novick's U.S. Senate bid. (He lost in the Democratic primary to Jeff Merkley, who then went on to beat incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith.) This was like no other campaign event I'd ever attended. Novick was sitting cross-legged in one of the booths along the south wall (now gutted) and chatting with a couple of people. A dozen other people stood around drinking and laughing. No signs. No speeches. Very Renner's.

There was a time in Multnomah Village when Renner's Grill was a multi-generational gathering place. Paul Pintarich, who worked for The Oregonian and wrote a book called "History By The Glass" about various Portland saloons, bars and taverns, wrote this about Renner's Grill: "My mother used to haul me to Multnomah in a coaster wagon. I went to school here. Renner's was always here, snug as a bear's lair, its low-ceilinged, wood-paneled presence assuring me that this is how it would always be. All of life's important ceremonies were celebrated here: birthdays, weddings, divorces, job hirings or firings, birth — and death, of course."

Renner's Grill owner Steve Potter pamplinmedia.com/scc/103-news/414518-314611-renners-grill-owner-gets-ready-to-rebuild-historic-tavern has improved the tavern's fortunes since he bought it four years ago. Business doubled in the first year, he says, and they've been able to stay open longer and offer breakfast.

That fire last March took its toll on an old building, but Potter says he's determined to rebuild and reopen.  After all, it's not just his business, it's an institution with an iconic sign out front.

Contact Connection Editor Bill Gallagher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or facebook.com/SWConnection.

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