For the last year, River Pig Saloon’s Ramzy Hattar has been on the hustle, making and taking and phone calls and pirouetting from one business meeting to the next like the former professional rugby flanker he once was.
In 2017, Hattar took the reins of his old college haunt, the almost century-old Taylor’s Bar & Grill in campus town of Eugene. On April 1 of this year, he’s opening a second River Pig in the mountain town of Bend.
But those two projects now look like mere warm-ups for what’s shaping up to be Hattar’s most ambitious project yet: Sometime within the next six to eight months, he plans on opening an 8,000-square-foot cocktail lounge and music venue in the recently vacated Oba, just a few blocks from his Pearl District saloon.
The venue will be called Zizou, which is the nickname Hattar’s given his 12-year-old son, Zedan (who is himself named after French soccer legend Zinedane “Zizou” Zidane). Hattar says he envisions a space with the look and feel of LA’s swanky Sayers Club, known for its tufted leather couches, brick walls, and small performance stage. When it opens, Zizou should accommodate up to 700 spectators. They'll be able to gather around a modest stage built for national and international touring musicians to quietly storm for quick, intimate performances before or after their Moda Center concerts. A small private VIP room is also in the works, where musicians can entertain even more intimate crowds.
If that sounds crazy, it’s not as wild as it sounds. For reasons that Hattar himself can’t quite figure out, international superstars have made River Pig a requisite stop when visiting Portland. In the last year, Hattar claims Drake and Travis Scott dropped in unannounced, as did R&B legends Boyz II Men. Even Paul McCartney dropped by the saloon before his April 2016 concert.
Music is but one ingredient of the project. Hattar explains that because Oba had such an enormous kitchen, he hopes to use it his advantage to invite traveling celebrity chefs, or talented local chefs de cuisine who want to test drive new concepts for a few months before taking their projects brick-and-mortar.
When such chefs are not in the kitchen, it’ll be run by Hattar’s cousin, Tamara Hattar, who’s put in burner time at San Francisco’s Maven and State Bird Provisions, and who currently pulls kitchen duty at Ava Gene’s.
When Zizou’s doors open, the space will keep the hours of 4 p.m.–2 a.m. daily, except for Sundays. On that day, Hattar wants to bring weekly gospel brunches to the Pearl. He’s in talks with drummer and local jazz royalty, Chris Brown, to make that so.
Pretty ambitious, right? Hattar agrees, admitting that he might not get everything he wants, but he’s shooting for the stars anyway.
“It’s lofty and some of it might be unattainable,” he says. “But what better location to bring in different people from all over the city?”
And with Zizou, Hattar’s just getting started. Right now, he’s in negotiations to partner with two prominent Portland organizations to open two more high-profile Portland-based establishments in the coming months. He says can’t say anything until the contracts’ ink dries, but adds that he’s close to making those announcements, too.