March 4, 2024

Phở Gabo Closure Does Not Pass the Community Smell Test

At APANO and APANO Action Fund (AF), we work to bring our vision of a just world to life; a world in which Asian and Pacific Islanders — and all communities who share our aspirations and struggles — have the autonomy and opportunity to live, work and play in Oregon. Most importantly, this vision involves a world where we all have the ability to thrive. 

Towards that goal, we actively work to support and prevent the involuntary displacement of our small business community. In our efforts to create a sense of belonging and encourage community wealth building, APANO operates a Small Business Development program wherein our Small Business Advisor, Grace Pae Henricks, works to support small Asian- and Pacific-Islander-owned businesses in the Portland area.  

As we saw with the most recent closure of a neighborhood staple, Phở Gabo, a complaint system based on an individual neighbor or inspector’s personal perceptions can be influenced by xenophobic biases. Such a system disproportionately impacts the BIPOC-owned businesses that bring vibrancy and cultural diversity to our neighborhoods. Long used as a tactic for displacing and removing Asian communities, olfactory racism has deep roots in this country dating back hundreds of years. 

Phở Gabo has been a community anchor in the neighborhood for more than five years. Prior to Phở Gabo opening, the location housed an Asian restaurant for more than 30 years. One of the many offerings that restaurant-goers enjoyed at Pho Gabo was their grilled meats. An individual neighbor began to file complaints about the smell of the grilling. As a result, the restaurant moved their grilling operations to a different location in late 2023. Despite the move, the complaints continued about other items on their menu. Twice, the City imposed a $910 fine and there were escalating future fines of $1,800 looming. 

With such a heavy financial burden, the owner of Phở Gabo has since closed their NE Portland location. They are facing substantial financial hardship due to inventory loss and loss of sales. Unfortunately, for both the business and the community, they do not plan to reopen this location. With this closure, our community is losing a vital small business and reinforcing harmful stereotypes and tropes around Asians, our food, culture, and right to belong.

We call on the City of Portland to take action and see to it that future processes do not result in the same sort of disproportionate harm. We appreciate Commissioner Rubio’s responsiveness to find out more from the Bureau of Development Services and work to ensure the local business community is able to operate free from harassment.

As this story progresses, we’ll add updates here and on social media. 

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