Storm & The Balls featuring Storm Large had a regular Wednesday night show for several years. The SuicideGirls Burlesque Troupe performed regularly at Dante's Sunday night "Sinferno Cabaret."
Dante's has received awards including Best Live Music from AOL.com, "Favorite House of Rock" from Willamette Week, and "Best Live Music Venue" from Portland Citysearch.com.
Dante's was opened in February 2000 by Frank Faillace, and is currently owned and managed by Frank Faillace and Paul S. Park.
Bands and other acts that have performed at Dante's include: Christian Kane, Bo Diddley, X, Big Star, Nina Hagen, Lemmy of Motörhead, George Clinton & P-Funk, The Killers, Concrete Blonde, Peaches, The Reverend Horton Heat, Drive-By Truckers, Hank Williams III, Matisyahu, My Morning Jacket, Kristeen Young, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Mini Kiss, Patton Oswalt, Doug Stanhope, Tommy Chong and director John Waters.
1890s through 1960
The building at the corner of SW 3rd and Burnside has gone through many incarnations. One of the confounding factors, when researching the history of this building, is that in 1891, Portland annexed territories east of the Willamette River, and enacted an ordinance for numbering the streets, but in 1931, the north-to-south division of the city was shifted from SW Ankeny Street to Burnside Street, which necessitated yet another change in the numbering system of streets. The Oregon Historical Society has a directory that effectively translates the old addresses into the newer format. For example, an address that was formerly at 13 Northwest 3rd Avenue, was now "shifted" south and became simply number 3 Southwest 3rd Avenue, the current site of Dante's pizza window. Properties on the south side of Burnside were "shifted" east. The three story structure at 314 SW Burnside was formerly numbered as 264 SW Burnside. While this re-alignment was confusing at the time, it laid the groundwork for the modern Portland street system as it is currently aligned.
In transcribing the history of the building, it is important to remember that Dante's is composed of two structures. The main room is in a one-story structure and comprises the eastern half of the venue. The Limbo Lounge sits to the west and there are an additional two stories above it, that are currently in use.
Examination of Oregon Historical Society documents indicates that the parcel of land that Dante's currently sits upon are lots 5 through 8 of the block in Couch's Addition, and were owned by various members of the Jorgensen family, beginning sometime around the 1890s to 1900s, and possibly earlier. This is further corroborated through the City of Portland's Bureau of Buildings, which is in possession of several building permits for the property, filed by various members of the Jorgensen family or estate. The earliest dates to October 19, 1921, at the 3-story property at 314 West Burnside Street (formerly known as 266 West Burnside Street under the pre-1931 street system), which references the ground floor property as a "Soft drink and Lunch."
Permit records from June 30, 1926, indicate that the same property was home to a rooming house on its second and third stories. By cross-referencing these records with a phone directory from 1930 and the Crane's Directory, it appears that the 3-story building was formerly known as the Montana Hotel.
Further examination of Oregon Historical Society photographs of the intersection of SW 3rd and Burnside, dated from May 1927, clearly show the landmark Union Theater (now the Paris Theater) just across the street from the eastern half of Dante's which is where the main room, bar, and kitchen are currently situated. There is a second and third story on top of the existing structure which is labeled as the Winchester House. It is this property that was reputed to be a brothel, but in the parlance of the times it was also known as a "flophouse". Interviews with persons of this era also indicate that this was where day-laborers could be found, in addition to a host of other characters. The 1929 phone book also lists tenants of the first floor of the block to be a restaurant owned by Fred Soller and a clothier named Julius Breall. Prior to the appearance of the Winchester House, this building is reported to have been a liquor distribution warehouse.
On October 2, 1930, Pauline Jorgensen, the listed owner of the Winchester House had the Rose City Wrecking Company demolish the Winchester House's wooden structure down to the existing one-story structure that forms Dante's main room. The last existing inspection records of the 3-story property referencing Jorgensen ownership are dated March 24, 1959, and specifically cite the installation of fire doors and wooden partitions in the current 3-story structure that forms Dante's Limbo Lounge. The City's last record of Jorgensen ownership or activity of the one-story structure is dated June 29, 1983, and lists a Victor Hugo Jorgensen as the owner of the one-story property.
There have been several owners and incarnations inside of the one-story and three-story structures that form Dante's. At some point, fill-brick was used to partition the once contiguous ground-floor space. This was later removed and the original brickwork was restored and structurally upgraded.
From the 1960s onward, records on the 3-story structure are sparse, but a series of documents dated to 1979 indicated that the building was owned by Rip City Realty. There are additional documents dated January 8, 1982, that list a Lanny Swerdlow as the owner of the aforementioned structure. Swerdlow came to rather infamous notoriety in Portland after opening a series of alternative-lifestyle nightclubs for teens, running afoul of the law on numerous occasions. In the 1990s the ground floor was home to the infamous Dr. Bill's Learning Center. Following Dr. Bill's retirement in 1996, it became Aja's Lingerie. Currently located on the top floor suite, It is now the only female owned/operated private adult entertainment club exclusive to gentleman only, management has remained the same since 2009, even though the owners and names of the business have frequently changed throughout the years. The third floor has a separate entrance located directly to the west of Dante's main doors. The entryway leads to a staircase that you can climb to the third floor to find this underground tourist attraction that has been a tourist favorite hot spot for many years. The one-story structure has primarily served as a restaurant since the 1960s, but appears to have been unoccupied for several long stretches. Permits from 1984 indicate that the restaurant was legally known as the New Canaan Restaurant (corporate name), doing business as Chang's Mongolian Grill. From 1985 to 1999, the one-story structure comprising Dante's main room, at the southwest corner of West Burnside and Third Avenue, was the original Chang's Mongolian Grill. On April 1, 1999, Frank Faillace took over the lease from Chang's, remodeling and opening on February 3, 2000.
Prior to 1984, there are virtually no official building or inspection records that help to identify the activity in this particular property. In the 1970s up until 1984, it was a punk rock music venue called The Metropolis or "The Met", which featured underground punk bands like The Cramps and The Wipers. The Met was a favorite hangout of a diverse crowd including punk rockers, drag queens and strippers including a soon-to-be-famous Courtney Love.
The building is currently owned by J.A. Atwood Investments.
- Crane Directory, Crane Direct Mail Services, 1930
- City of Portland, Bureau of Buildings, Permit 102951
- Oregon Historical Society, Negative 01881, May 1927
- Oregon Historical Society, Negative 00756, 1929
- Portland City Phonebook, 1929
- City of Portland, Bureau of Buildings, Permit 211271
- City of Portland, Bureau of Buildings, Permit 375264
- City of Portland, Bureau of Buildings, Permit 115307
- City of Portland, Bureau of Buildings, Permit 522827
- City of Portland, Bureau of Buildings, Permit 544799
- Willamette Week
- City of Portland, Bureau of Fire Prevention, PFB 300.131.5
- Edelman Associates, Architectural Plans, Job 65460, 11/26/85
- City of Portland, Bureau of Buildings, Permit Application Center, Building Permit BLD96-04171
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