While searching for storage space for a friend, Kurt Van Orden stumbled on a unique spot on Broadway in downtown Vancouver that he believed would make an excellent place for a speakeasy-type establishment. After some discussion, he and Kendra Zern decided to take the leap to start the UnderBar. The co-owner team started planning what the business would look like and became incorporated in 2017.
It took eight months to build out the bar, and UnderBar officially opened its doors for business in June 2018. Since then, revenue growth has exceeded expectations and they have now added two full-time employees. They offer classic craft cocktails and have a variety of rotating draught beers, in addition to a themed menu that evolves regularly, based on customer feedback.
Van Orden and Zern are both Clark County residents and wanted to tap into the tremendous growth that Vancouver has seen in recent years.
“We believe that Clark County has a big future and a positive business environment, especially compared to Portland,” Van Orden said. “Downtown Vancouver, and Uptown Village in particular, are booming right now. The UnderBar is unlike anything else in Vancouver that I am aware of, and the area has some really excellent bars and restaurants that collectively attract people there.”
He went on to explain that his establishment sees a lot of foot traffic and often people are visiting the area that day when they decide to stop in and see what the UnderBar is all about.
Because the venue is small and locally owned, Van Orden said that they are free to do things that other places in the area cannot or will not do. For example, they frequently allow people to have private parties in the bar, they donate a fair amount to different local charities and they have also been known to bring in special beers, wines or spirits at the request of regular customers that they have built relationships with.
Van Orden credits their quick success to several factors, the first being the outstanding employees that work with them to help create a unique experience for patrons. He also shares that the great relationship with their landlords has been instrumental.
“Without their support, this project could never get off the ground,” he said.
Furthermore, he said he believes that the one-of-a-kind environment is something that has kept people coming back.
“We believe the fact that we are unique provides another reason for people to stay on this side of the river,” Van Orden said. “We strive to treat everyone who visits as we would a guest in our house.”
UnderBar is located at 1701 ½ Broadway St., in Vancouver.