Reo’s Up in Flames
Owner thinks fire was racially motivated
Zachary Senn | 5/9/2017, 4:41 p.m.
Investigators are trying to determine what caused the popular barbecue restaurant Reo’s Ribs to catch fire early Monday, destroying a landmark building and gutting a local African-American business. The eatery, which is owned and operated by restaurateur Reo Varnado and his business partner Myra Girod, has been at its present Northeast 42nd and Sandy Boulevard location since October 2015.
Portland Fire and Rescue is looking into reports that people were seen fleeing the scene of the fire after its ignition during the predawn hours. Varnado, in a 30-minute Facebook Live video posted on Monday morning, speculated that the attack on his restaurant could have been racially motivated.
Varnado, who was in Los Angeles when the fire occurred, told the Portland Observer that he is extremely shaken up by the events, and that he has been the recipient of taunts from people outside of the restaurant since reopening in the Hollywood District.
Firefighters described the damage to the historic structure, which is located just down the street from the Hollywood Theatre, as extensive. The 95-year-old building, which was originally constructed to serve as a trolley stop, hosted the Hollywood Burger Bar from 1954 through 2015.
Varnado, who is the uncle and occasional personal chef of rap icon Snoop Dogg, has received complaints regarding the smoke from his outdoor grills in the past, especially when he was located on Southwest Macadam Boulevard a few years ago. In total, Reo’s Ribs has changed locations four times since originally opening on Tualatin Valley Highway in Aloha in 1999.
Reo’s Ribs is known for its distinctively sweet take on traditional Southern barbecue. The eatery has been recognized in Gourmet Magazine, and was formerly nominated as one of the top 100 restaurants in Portland.