Reel M Inn ‘crushed’ when pandemic relief didn’t come

Coronavirus

Iconic Portland bar OK'd for funds, but money ran out before they received it

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Reel M Inn is one of the most iconic dive bars in Portland, known for its fried chicken and welcoming atmosphere. But that remains in jeopardy as owner Carey Briggs tries to recover from the pandemic.

Briggs, who began as a bartender at the Reel M Inn, said having to close is still very much on the table.

“It’s hard enough to own a bar or restaurant and make a living as it is in the best of times, and to have the hits keep coming, coming, coming, really took us down,” she said.

Reel M Inn owner Carey Briggs at her iconic dive bar in Southeast Portland, July 20, 2021 (KOIN)

In May, she immediately applied for a grant through the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund. She was considered a priority applicant and was notified she was approved with money likely coming within a week.

That’s when she and her husband started ordering things needed to make repairs and keep the bar open.

But a lawsuit filed over how the funds were being distributed changed all that. Her money was put on hold and by the time the hold was resolved, the fund was out of money.

“We were crushed, we were devastated. This has hands down been the hardest 16-plus months of my 42 years,” Briggs told KOIN 6 News. “We were going to be OK. We were going to be here, we were going to be alright with the staff, everything. And losing that really was devastating.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced a bill to add another $60 billion to the fund, but it needs more support in Congress.

That’s why Briggs and hundreds of other restaurants across the country and coming together to urge everyone to contact their congressional representatives to let them know the extra money is needed.

It would be life-changing, Briggs said, and allow them to keep the Reel M Inn open.

“This place is in my bones. I bleed this place. I met my husband here,” Briggs said. “This is what I’ve known since I’ve moved to Portland.”

The Reel M Inn, 2430 SE Division in Portland, as seen on Google Street View, July 20, 2021

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