JD Stubenberg has been working as the bar manager at Jimmy Mak’s for 19 years. In that time, he has seen the club grow from a small corner spot to one of Portland’s premiere jazz and blues clubs. But Jimmy Mak’s, one of Portland’s few remaining jazz clubs, will be closing its doors at the end of the year.
The owner of the club, Jimmy Makarounis, recently announced that he would no longer be able to run the venue as he undergoes cancer treatment.
“Our building had sold last year, and so we were in the process of preparing to move into a new location right around the corner,” says Stubenberg.
“Jimmy has been battling throat cancer for about four years now, and he was going through the process of treatment and recovery. Unfortunately this fall, his condition worsened significantly and his doctors came to him and said, ‘You need to stop working and focus all your energy on just getting healthy.’”
The club will host its final show on December 31st, with a performance from Portland’s 12-piece funk band Soul Vaccination.
The group has had regular gigs at the club for nine years.
Jimmy Mak’s is one of the only venues left in town where a band of their size can get gigs on a regular basis. Dave Mills, bandleader and trumpeter for the group, says that the band would not exist without it.
“It’s kind of a labor of love because [the band] is so large, but we’ve played all the rooms that have closed. “
Since the announcement that the club would be closing, Stubenberg says there has been an outpouring of support from people who want to help keep the club alive.
“We knew that we had an impact in this town, but we didn’t really understand how big of an impact it’s been,” says Stubenberg.
At this point all plans for moving the club have been halted, but Stubenberg hopes that they can build on the support they have received to find someone who can step in to fund and manage it.
“Finding the money to do it, I don’t think is going to be too difficult. Finding the right person who understands what they’re putting money into, and the fact that this is not something that’s going to make them a fortune. It’s a restaurant at the end of the day. Restaurants don’t make that much money,” says Stubenberg. “This is really something that we are going to be asking somebody to do out of love.”
Mills hopes that the venue will survive in some form. He says that performance is the lifeblood of his band.
“You have to work. That’s what keeps a band tight. You can rehearse all you want, but playing is what keeps the spirit and everybody moving forward. We’ll survive, but it won’t be the same. I just hope and pray that what JD is talking about, that room will open again after they close.”