By Mac Larsen | CNA Media Team
Even during the hardest part of the COVID-19 pandemic, Binks Bar still found a way to make things a little bit more beautiful.
After 20 years, the little bar near the corner of 27th Avenue and Alberta Street is still truckin’ and its response to the hardships of COVID-19 reflect the sense of community and resilience of owners Bianca and Justin Youngers.
Even with Portland restaurants and bars in disarray, the couple invested in their future and made their space even more appealing to the residents of Concordia and Alberta Street.
“I think that at the beginning, when we were shut down, my husband and I had a lot of nervous energy. It was pretty horrible,” Bianca said. “We took that time to take everything out of here and redo the floors, and we painted the whole thing ourselves. “We just came down and just kind of tried to beautify it.
“We had mural artist Plastic Birdie come in, and he did a mural in our little room back here that we lovingly call the make-out room, because people make out back there.” Bianca laughed at the intimacy a neighborhood bar can provide.
In the early years, Justin and Bianca had worked Binks themselves, from open to close.
It was the groovy and gritty atmosphere of the Alberta Arts District that really stood out to Bianca. She remembered the MarchFourth Marching Band, a Last Thursday standby, on stilts and in costume that threw parties in Binks’ back room.
When COVID-19 closed down eateries across the state, the couple changed their bar business model and focused on delivery.
Dubbed “Binkster,” the delivery service offered meals and drinks to individual households. If a customer wanted to host a videoconference party, Binkster delivered the provisions to each guest’s home. Items ranged from entrees, snacks, growlers, cocktails to selections from Binks’ bottle shop to flowers, gifts and CBD. “We actually had to bring on more staff because it was so labor intensive,” Bianca said.
For the Binks owners, change and resilience is par for the course. “If you imagine we’ve been here for 20 years, that’s a lot of changes you see, and each one is so significant,” Bianca said. “You mourn them when they happen because they really happen fast.
“And then, the next thing is just like a whole rebirth and a whole new thing. It’s pretty cool, owning a bar that way.”
Mac Larsen is a graduate student at the University of Oregon, pursuing a master’s degree in journalism. He grew up in Concordia neighborhood and can be found frequently on Alberta Street, complaining about all the construction.