Christmas came a couple of weeks late for Ken and Lori Arrigotti, owners of the Backstop Bar & Grill, as the Canby Planning Commission on January 9 approved the plans for their long-awaited expansion that would add a brewery, taproom and Italian restaurant with a second-floor rooftop bar and dining terrace to their existing building.
The two-story, 11,230-square-foot extension will replace the existing, one-story building that formerly housed the offices of the Canby Herald, which the Arrigottis purchased from Pamplin Media Group in 2019 and have been leasing while they planned the brewery project and other aspects of the expansion.
It has long been Ken Arrigotti’s dream to bring the town’s first brewery to downtown Canby, and now, it appears the dream is finally coming true.
“This project has been a dream of mine for years and years, and it’s just amazing,” he told commissioners on January 9. “I feel fortunate how things have moved along to where we’re actually at the point where we’re at right now with this project.”
The planned expansion, which will also include a basement workspace and arcade on the second floor, is designed to mimic and complement the look and feel of the Backstop’s existing, historic building.
The new restaurant and bar will have its own entrance on North Grant Street, with communicating doors on the interior to allow guests to move between the existing building and Backstop Brewing taproom.
The brewery will take up the lion’s share of the first floor of the new expansion, with the front third serving as a taproom. Arrigotti told commissioners he has hired a brewer with more than 20 years of experience to lead the program, though he wasn’t yet at liberty to share his name.
“But if I said the name of a company he was with at one time, you’d know the company,” Arrigotti teased. “So, we definitely have someone special helping us out with this.”
The Italian restaurant and kitchen will be built into the second floor of the existing Backstop building, replacing the Antonia Ballroom event space. The new ristorante will be dubbed Arrigotti’s — appropriate since he plans on using some of his own family recipes to build out the authentic Italian menu.
“My family is Italian, and my grandmother was a phenomenal cook,” Arrigotti told the Planning Commission, adding that they are also consulting with the family behind Syliva’s Italian Restaurant, a former live dinner theater in northeast Portland that currently houses the flagship outpost of Laurelwood Brewing Co.
“From the ’50s all the way until the late ’90s, it was a landmark Italian restaurant in the Portland area,” Arrigotti said. “Her daughters happen to be acquaintances of mine. So they’re going to consult with the recipes.”
Arrigotti and his team believe the project will benefit not only the Backstop, which already serves as a critical westside anchor for downtown Canby, but the entire downtown corridor.
“The project will greatly enhance the pedestrian experience along both North Grant Street and 2nd Avenue with awnings and storefront windows with views into the brewery and taproom,” architect Ted Lundin, of Lundin Cole Architects P.C., wrote in the project narrative.
“The outdoor second-floor terrace will provide dramatic views into the city and Wait Park.”
Commissioners had some questions about the project as it related to sidewalks, alleyways and pedestrian mobility in the area, but overall seemed to feel the expansion of the sports-themed bar and grill was, well, a home run.
“I’m very excited for this,” Commissioner Chris Calkins agreed. “I’m excited to have a cheat day and load up on lots of carbs in the future.”
The motion to approve the project passed unanimously, with five commissioners in favor and one abstaining.
Reached this week, Arrigotti told the Current the project was currently on hold due to the sharp increase in Small Business Administration loan rates caused by the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in December.
They plan to continue to lease the 2,780-square-foot former Herald office building before the Backstop Brewing project can move forward, Arrigotti said.
Built in 1912 for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Canby (the calling card “I.O.O.F” can still be seen on its exterior walls, doorknobs and other places), the commercial-style building boasts a stucco finish, a large, imposing facade and a striking rooftop parapet.
It has been home to a number of businesses, including Canby Hardware & Implement Co. and Rexall Drugs before becoming the Backstop Bar & Grill. Its most recent renovation was in 2007.
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