PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s no secret that restaurants in Portland have been struggling for the past few years, with a pandemic and crime resulting in empty downtown office buildings and a drop in tourism — in especially in Old Town Portland.
Now, a beloved restaurant owner who survived it all faces an even bigger problem: costly surgery that could close his doors for good.
KOIN 6 News spoke to some of the regulars who said if the restaurant wasn’t there it would be “really sad.”
Chef Naji Bouhmid owns Kasbah’s Moroccan Café on the corner of NW Second and Davis.
“People, like office people, come to me when they’re hungry and tourists when they’ve been walking all day,” Bouhmid said.
KOIN 6 News has learned that Bouhmid has worked alongside some of the world’s top chefs, cooked meals for foreign dignitaries and celebrities, and cooked for the Peace Corps in Morocco.
20 years later, one of these volunteers entered the Kasbah and recognized Bouhmid almost instantly.
“When she saw me, she had tears in her eyes. Now she’s the recruiter for Peace Corps here in Portland,” Bouhmid said.
Bouhmid opened Kasbah’s in 2016. Like other restaurants, Kasbah’s has struggled during the pandemic.
“I started doing good in 2019, then the pandemic changed everything,” Bouhmid said.
The restaurant is also no stranger to unprecedented crime in the Old Town, as their windows have been smashed twice this year.
Bouhmid said he spent $1,300 to replace the windows and another $500 to fix the door after someone got metal stuck in it.
But he got away with it and runs this place all by himself, from taking orders to washing dishes.
Now it’s become too much and he needs wrist surgery.
“I used my wrist too much, that’s the problem,” explained Bouhmid.
But costly surgery and recovery time would force Bouhmid to close the doors of the Kasbah permanently.
Bouhmid’s friends created a GoFundMe to help raise funds for Kasbah’s operation and running costs.
Whatever the situation, Bouhmid knows what motivates him.
“You know, sometimes I think ‘oh, I have to stop doing this’, but then you see someone you haven’t seen in too long, it gives you happiness inside,” said Bouhmid.