The Chamber is a unique lounge in that it is only one of a few locations in Multnomah and Washington county that is a public cigar lounge.
In 2009 the State of Oregon expanded its ban on indoor smoking to include bars and restaurants. Due to the fact that The Shilo Inn had an existing cigar bar and never allowed the smoking of cigarettes, it received an exemption from this new state law. There are only a few places in the entire state that were granted this exemption. When The Opihi Group took over the cigar bar and renamed it The Chamber at 9900, this exemption was grandfathered to them and will remain for the foreseeable future.
To get around this new law, cigar stores and “private smoking clubs” (which require a membership fee) have surfaced and they have the ability to allow you to smoke cigars in those establishments. What makes the Chamber at 9900 truly special is that we are open to the public as long as you are 21 years of age or older and you have the additional benefit of a full-service bar and restaurant that are not allowed in the cigar stores or private smoking clubs. If you want to have a cocktail while you enjoy a cigar, your options are very limited and The Chamber at 9900 goes further than any other location in that we have 1200 sq. feet of space, 8 televisions, every MLB, NBA and NFL game along with a world class Whisk(e)y list and an impressively stocked humidor.
We had a chance to sit down with partner Jason Chambers to discuss a range of topics.
Describe year 1 of The 9900.
The last year at the 9900 has been quite interesting on many levels. As you all know, it was a year marked by delays in getting The Steakhouse open for business. Between the county wanting us to dig up 80 years worth of concrete, dirt, various additions, etc so that we could put in a grease trap, a complete renovation of the kitchen; upstairs and down and complete remodel of the dining room itself it was quite a process.
The great news is that thanks to our loyal customers and word of mouth getting around that we have made a lot of positive changes around here, business in both of the bars is up over 60% compared to last year. We have been very fortunate in that we have a staff that is attentive, loyal and committed to what we are trying to accomplish here at The 9900.
Where are we now?
With the opening of The Steakhouse at 9900 we finally have all three pieces that make up The 9900 and we could not be more excited about what the rest of this year and the future hold. We hope to continue to build the daytime business in both bars and continue to have more of the private events that we have been received so well by all of you. Football season is approaching and we believe that we can make The 9900 a destination for watching college and professional football and showing the diversity of the experience you can have here. From video lottery, to all the sports you can watch, to the ability to have a cigar inside while eating and drinking and most importantly having the ability to enjoy a world class meal all in the same building is something pretty special that we hope you will share with us and help us spread the word about.
Ok, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, The Shilo.
The question that I and I’m sure my partners get asked the most is “Why did you decide to put a Steakhouse in the Shilo?” While we admit that it seems unconventional considering the disrepair that this property had fallen into, what is important to remember is that we are not that far removed from a restaurant by the name of Nendel’s that occupied this building before the Shilo and was considered by all to be one of the best restaurants on the West Side. We have heard from so many people that either worked at Nendel’s or religiously went there and want to see that kind of magic again. When we agreed to lease the bars and restaurant from The Shilo, we knew that the entire building was up for sale and thought that if we could take over the food and beverage and show an immediate change in the quality of the food and the service then we had a great chance of helping to attract someone that could see the vision of what we wanted to accomplish and hopefully bring the level of the hotel up to where we want to bring the food and experience. Had the hotel not been up for sale we probably would have chosen a different location. Fortunately for us, the property did sell and we believe that we found that partner in the new owner. He has already made significant changes to the property and has promised many more that will only help to move us back to the days of when this was the best place to have a meal in West Side.
The Shilo attempted to do what we are doing when they opened “The Mark.” The difference between what they did and what we are doing is drastic. First off, they don’t have Chef Christian Russell and they never had a commitment to the quality and the service side of things. We believe that if you can provide incredible food and pair it with service that is attentive, and passionate without being pretentious then people will happily make the decision to not drive downtown to have a meal that we believe rivals if not surpasses any steakhouse downtown.