A downtown restaurant that offered upscale dining paired with local wines has been evicted from its spot by the Roseburg Masons, who own the building.
The Blackbird Bar and Grill will close May 20 after three years in business. Sandy’s Place Restaurant, a diner that left Roseburg for Winston, will return to take its space.
Blackbird owners Cheryl and Joe Allen say they invested a lot of time and money in the restaurant, which offers a dining experience fans say is unique to Roseburg.
The Allens say they were hosting a 70th birthday party for Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson April 17 when they received an unpleasant surprise — a 30-day eviction notice.
The Masons use the upper floor of the building and rent out four spaces below.
All parties have different versions of the events leading up to the Blackbird’s eviction.
Cheryl Allen said she believes the owners are retaliating for a small claims suit she brought after an upstairs bathroom flooded her downstairs business twice. She said the flooding cost her $3,800, including $1,580 worth of damage to antiques she was selling next door in a store also leased from the Masons.
Clay Jordan, the chairman of the Masons Laurel Lodge building trustees, said the Allens stopped making lease payments on the antique store and refused to sign a long-term lease for the restaurant.
“We were pushed into a decision. We had to make a choice. As it turns out, another party was interested in it,” Jordan said.
Cheryl Allen said she notified Jordan in December she planned to terminate the lease for the antique store in March. She also said they were considering signing a long-term lease for the restaurant but had not made a decision.
Meanwhile, Sandy’s was about to lose a building commonly referred to as the “red barn” at the intersection of Highways 42 and 99 outside Winston.
Joe Allen said he wished Sandy’s owners had chosen to fill a vacant building instead of the Blackbird’s location.
“I have no idea why Sandy’s even wants to come here. There’s empty places all up and down the street that they could use,” Joe Allen said.
Sandy’s owner Dave Mack said he and his wife, Sandy, were approached by the landlords, who told them the current tenants would be leaving.
“If we told them, ‘No,’ they’d still be out of there. It would just be an empty building,” he said.
Mack attributed Sandy’s move to its rent increasing. Another possible location at the Roseburg Valley Mall fell through, making 647 S.E. Jackson St. their best option, Mack said.
The Macks have operated Sandy’s at several Roseburg locations since 2002.
“We have an awful lot of customers in Roseburg. We’re really excited to get back there,” he said.
Blackbird customers have weighed in on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “You put class in the eating community,” one person commented.
Comments spread to the Facebook page of Sandy’s Place, with a customer defending the diner against accusations of “shady” dealings.
The Allens say they want to reopen their restaurant, but are not certain whether they can raise the money to renovate another building.
They said their transformation of the former D’s Magnolia German restaurant into a 1930s-themed restaurant with a bar showcasing local wines took five months and more than $100,000 to complete.
Chef Tina Hamilton, who described Blackbird’s cuisine as “elegant comfort food,” said the restaurant is unique.
“People really don’t want this place to close because it fills a hole that the Roseburg business community needs filled,” she said.
She said the menu is seasonal and changes every six weeks. One favorite offering is a lavender-blueberry cheesecake. Recent offerings have included mustard-glazed, roasted rack of lamb with Kentucky bourbon and mint sauce and braised rabbit with pappardelle pasta and sautéed cabbage.
Cheryl Allen said Hamilton and chef Jay Ervin are “innovative and brave and creative” in creating their cuisine.
“They think about food like a musician thinks about music or an artist thinks about art,” she said.
The restaurant won two medals at this year’s Greatest of the Grape for its pairings of food with wine.
Roseburg resident Georgia Gross said she is a “foodie” who checked out the Blackbird the day it opened and had curried pork salad with peaches. What she tasted persuaded her to keep returning.
“I’ve been a loyal fan for a long time,” she said. “I’ve had some steaks there that are just to die for.”
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or email@example.com.