August 1, 2013

What's up with the Empire?

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Local music lovers have been awaiting word of another lively music venue in Portland that has been closed since early this year after being taken over by new owners.

Empire Dine and Dance, 575 Congress St., closed in early April after being sold to a partnership that includes local arts promoter Todd Bernard and restaurateur Theresa Chan. Bernard said last week that the business is tentatively scheduled to re-open in early September and will be renamed simply "Empire."

While it's been closed, the bottom floor of the space has been "completely overhauled" to make way for a restaurant focusing on Chinese dim sum cuisine, Bernard said. The upstairs, which has been the venue's main music space, underwent renovations that included the addition of bathrooms.

Bernard's hope is that the upstairs will remain a lively music space with three or four shows a week. He envisions a mix of local, regional and national acts.

So far, acts booked to play the renovated Empire include the instrumental indie-rock do El Ten Eleven on Sept. 12; California indie-folk rockers The Milk Carton Kids on Oct. 10; the alt-rock outfit The Neighbourhood on Oct. 11; and the folk group The Parkington Sisters on Oct. 15.

The Empire's popular "Clash of the Titans" series, which features local bands competing against each other while covering popular artists, will continue on Wednesdays beginning in September, Bernard said.

Empire Dine and Dance had been operating as a restaurant, bar and music room for about five years before changing hands. Having a dim sum restaurant there harkens to the building's history -- it was a Chinese restaurant called Empire from the early 1900s to the 1950s.

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