Pho restaurant in Portland forced to close after neighbor complained of smell


A Vietnamese restaurant in Portland was forced to permanently close after an 18-month battle with a persistent neighbor who complained about the smell of its cooking.

Unidentified complainant: Pho Gabo, a restaurant with three locations in the Portland area, shuttered the doors of its Fremont Street branch on Feb. 3, reported Willamette Week. The specific location had been inundated with purported complaints from a nearby resident the city identified only as "COM" in public documents.

These complaints, which the officials said were filed starting on Sept. 2022, alleged violations of zoning codes that prohibit “continuous, frequent or repetitive odors” impacting residential neighbors.

Inspectors smelled food: Portland City inspectors made numerous visits to the restaurant, with one noting that the odors they detected smelled of a “wok dish.”

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“The smells intensified near the restaurant but were still easily discernible five houses away and across the street,” city planner Justin Lindley of the Bureau of Development Services wrote in a report. “I spoke with a contractor working on the new homes down the street. The contractor stated they could smell the odors from the restaurant every day.”

What the owner says: The owner, Eddie Dong, said his restaurant has been there for five years and never had a complaint like it. He noted that the closure has impacted his customers who have been frequenting the business for years.

In response to the complaints, Dong changed the restaurant’s cooking practices and hired cleaning services to mitigate the odors but the complaints persisted. He said he never knew the identity of the complainant, who reportedly continued to inform inspectors that the odor lingered at lunchtime and dinnertime. Dong ultimately closed the location, citing financial strain and the inability to afford the $40,000 filtration system a contractor had recommended.

Trending on NextShark: Pho restaurant in Portland forced to close after neighbor complained of smell

Community response: The location’s closure prompted an outcry from industry groups, including the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA). The organization called for a review of Portland's subjective odor violation standards and put a stop to “targeting small restaurants and their owners, many of whom are people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

“It’s unbelievable that an anonymous person’s repeated complaints about an odor can shut down an entire restaurant, potentially displacing its workers and causing the operator irreparable financial harm,” Jason Brandt, ORLA’s president and CEO, was quoted as saying.

Complaint aftermath: City Commissioner Carmen Rubio's office launched an immediate review of the city’s current odor violation standards. Meanwhile, Pho Gabo's Fremont Street location will remain permanently closed as Dong has already laid off staff and his landlord is already planning to sell the building.

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Customers who want to support the restaurant may visit the other two locations in Happy Valley and Hillsboro.

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