Huge news from the cocktail world: Jim Meehan of the legendary NYC cocktail bar PDT is moving to Portland, Oregon with his family next month. Eater spoke with Meehan on the phone this afternoon to find out what this means for his NYC bar, and what Portlanders can expect from him when he gets to town (a bar, maybe?). “If there’s ever going to be a good time to leave it’s now,” he says. Meehan is moving in early August.
While his home address is changing, Meehan says that this does not mean he is done with his work at PDT. Meehan will continue on as a partner while head bartender Jeff Bell will take on the day-to-day operations. “Jeff Bell has been with me for four years, one of the best people I’ve ever worked with in 20 years in the business,” says Meehan. “He’s been aware of this decision for a year, and he’s eager to take over the day to day of PDT.” Meehan will continue to “support him from afar.” “Our team has been there for quite some time. It’s going to be a tough transition … I’m cautiously optimistic about and I think change is good.”
He adds that his steady stream of work with various brands and now Tasting Table will have him in New York City on a regular basis. He also notes that much of his business happens remotely now anyway: “I really don’t see myself as leaving in any other sense than a geographic move. I’m hoping to remain connected.”
So does this mean Portland is going to have a new bar from Jim Meehan? “Eventually, yes,” he says. “But I couldn’t even give directions in Portland … It’s important that I get to know everyone. I want to be a part of the community and the city. I want to meet everyone and get vetted by them first before opening a place … I’ll figure out how to get involved and I want it to happen organically.”
Most people have been supportive of the move, but Meehan says that he did get some advice from Brooklyn restaurateurs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo: “They spoke to their experience about having to come back to New York City. They told me, ‘If you leave and come back you go to the back of the line. If you leave, do it quietly and keep your phone number.'”
Meehan says that his primary reason for leaving New York is his family. With his wife Valerie he has a one and a half year old daughter, and raising her in New York City seems to Meehan challenging from a financial perspective. “I really had to look at my income and be very frank about it,” he says. “I can buy a house in Portland … and I can’t buy anything here.”
Meehan calls the decision to leave “bittersweet,” and sums it up this way: “I’ve accomplished more here in 12 years than I ever dreamed. I never thought what happened to me here could happen to anyone … I leave behind people and places that are more than equipped to take what I’ve work on with them and run with it.”