Empire Dine + Dance closing for renovations, to reopen serving Chinese

Empire Dine + Dance, one of Portland’s most popular nightlife spots, will be returning to its roots somewhat as it closes down for renovations this spring.

Empire Dine + Dance was the location where Michael Brennan held his 2011 election night party. Brennan would go on to become Portland’s first popularly elected mayor since 1923. (BDN file photo by Joel Page)

Empire, at 575 Congress St., was first opened as a Chinese restaurant after World War I. After soon-to-be owners Theresa Chan and Todd Bernard finish their renovations there (the place closed down after Easter Sunday for the work), the bottom floor of the entertainment venue will once again serve Chinese as a dim sum restaurant, according to our media partners at WCSH 6.

On the second floor, Empire will still have concerts like the ones that have made it a go-to spot for aspiring acts in Portland’s ambitious music scene. Bernard’s resume includes a stint among the founders of the nearby SPACE gallery, so he knows a thing or two about providing a location for emerging artists.

Local rapper Wisdom, Lucas Salisbury, first worked as a bouncer at the establishment, according to a profile in the Portland Daily Sun. Wisdom had this to say to WCSH about how Empire helped him lift off:

The people who encouraged me were all around the city at Empire and all the local bars, and it’s one of the only reasons I am rapping.

Bill Umbel who acquired the venue in 2007 and has made it what it is today, told WCSH he’s moving on to greener pastures, specifically: “I’m throwing my guitar and my mandolin in my car and I’m going on the road.”

Based on the timetables for renovation work I’ve seen, Empire should back up and cranking in time for this summer.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.