PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — You may know the Urban Restaurant Group from their popular Pearl District eatery, Brix Tavern. Or maybe from Urban Fondue in Northwest Portland. Or Bartini. Or Carlita’s for tacos and tequila. Or the Swine Moonshine and Whiskey Bar in downtown Portland. Or the 5th Street Eateries in Eugene.
Ten restaurants in Portland, another 4 in Eugene plus a catering company and 4 event venues. All of them survived the pandemic.
“We’re fortunate we came out on the other side of this, and we’re doing well. So, knock on wood. Very fortunate and very blessed,” said Mark Byrum of Urban Restaurant Group.
Mark and Carla Byrum have a newer acquisition, The Metropolitan Tavern at Hotel Eastlund across from the Oregon Convention Center. It opened during the pandemic.
“We are so busy now,” Carla Byrum said. “People want to come out and they want to spend money and, you know, have the opportunity to celebrate birthdays and things like that.”
But during the height of the COVID pandemic, they shut everything down. Their future was in doubt. But they were determined.
“We just came with the mindset, if we’re going to do this let’s do it!” Mark said.
With SBA loans, federal government assistance, outdoor dining, sympathetic landlords — they made it work.
“We started doing deliveries, lot of to-go margaritas and things like that for multiple properties,” said Mark.
Nearly 20 years ago Mark opened his first restaurant, The Voodoo Lounge in Old Town, after he was let go from a restaurant management job. Mark and Carla’s first venture together, Urban Fondue, came a year later.
“So what I’ve done now is built Urban Restaurant Group with multiple restaurants, being more conscientious and loyal to my employees,” he said.
Both are confident Portland’s restaurant scene is coming back.
“We’re definitely down some great restaurants and there’s room for some new ones to come in,” Carla said.
That includes new restaurants from Urban Restaurant Group. They Byrums plan to open 3 more restaurants in the Portland area and another in Eugene. Those plans include a new restaurant in the old Hayden’s Lakefront Grill property in Tualatin.