The floating restaurant Mark's on the Channel will close its doors this year, owner Mark Altstetter announced last week.
Altstetter said there were a number of reasons he decided to close up shop, but essentially he's just "ready to shift into a new time of life."
Since 2002, Mark's on the Channel has served up seafood and more to diners on McCuddy's Marina in Scappoose.
"We've got this beautiful outdoor dining space, and when (the weather) is nice, we're busy. And that's about three months of the year," Altstetter said.
Before the pandemic hit, Mark's on the Channel had 25 employees. Now, the restaurant has less than a dozen workers.
For nearly two months, Altstetter and the restaurant's manager, Joshua Robbins, operated the restaurant alone, offering a limited take-out menu.
The pandemic and resulting restaurant closures didn't single-handedly end Mark's on the Channel, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Altstetter, who is in his late 50s, said that his heart just isn't in the restaurant business quite as much as it was nearly 19 years ago.
Running the restaurant "is what I always wanted and the experience will forever be a part of me," Altstetter wrote in a Facebook post announcing the closure.
"(I) hope those of you who rubbed up against Mark's were enriched by it and felt it worthy of a good place in your hearts and stomachs," he continued.
Altstetter said he looked into business aid programs earlier in the pandemic and was able to secure a disaster relief loan, but doesn't expect to use it.
The last day of business isn't scheduled yet. Altstetter said he wants to be open through the height of the outdoor dining season.
Even with the end of the road in sight, Mark's on the Channel is still scheduling birthday parties and going-away parties.
Alstetter said the weddings, memorials, reunions — people coming to the restaurant to gather together and dine — "is what it's all about."
Alstetter moved to Columbia County in 1993 and was commuting to Portland for work until he opened a small food product company.
"I kind of set my reputation before the restaurant opened," he said. Eventually, he added, "I felt as qualified as anyone could be, and pretty well-rounded" in cooking, plating, and administrative skills.
As for the restaurant's building, Alstetter isn't done yet. His secondary passion, beyond food, is restoration projects, so he plans to repurpose the building into a residence "as my retirement benefit."
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