Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Tavern and Pubs – Initiated in August, 2011, this blog recorded its 50,000 view on June 9th. On that date, 51 individuals viewed 71 different Beerchaser posts. The count included ten visitors from eight different countries including Germany, Australia, Nigeria, the Czech Republic and Coasta Rica. They hit the blog as a result of internet searches.
The 121 individual blog posts since inception (each averaging about 1,500 words) comprise reviews of 63 Portland establishments, in addition to about 71 watering holes in Europe, Colorado, Alaska, Eastern and Central Oregon, Washington, the Oregon Coast and the Southeastern US (not yet posted).
This blog has also “honored” twenty-two individuals or groups as Beerchaser-of-the-Month or Quarter ranging from authors, to academics to athletes to those directly connected with beer such as the Beer Goddess (Lisa Morrison) in April 2015. Perhaps two of the most auspicious are Art Vandelay – CEO of Vandelay Industries and the crew of the USS Constitution.
Jud Blakely, besides being a hero for his actions in combat during the Viet Nam War and an excellent athlete and writer – as documented when he was named Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in September 2013 – is also a whiz at using technology to communicate.
He is the talent behind the second and current Beerchaser logo and also responsible for the new “business cards” below – I often get requests from those I meet in watering holes to give them the blog address. (Jud’s creativity is exemplified by the slogan on the back of the card.)
And Thebeerchaser traffic has increased…….Counts and averages for the last four years are as follow:
August – December 2011: an average of 150 per month
2012: 6,703 views for an average of 558 per month
2013: 15,224 views for an average of 1,269 per month
2014: 18,098 views for an average of 1,508 per month
January through June 2015: average per month has been 1,701
Bar Closings – A Concern Says Whom? – I noted with interest a December 2014 article in Willamette Week entitled, “Closing Time” with a subheading, “2014 Was Barmageddon in Portland.” The article maintained that the closing of notable bars such as Slab Town (reviewed in October 2013), Produce Row, the East Bank Saloon, and others such as Tiga, is the “canary in the coal mine.” It quoted one bartender as stating, “Every good bar, everything you see is going under. Everything is going straight to shit,”
However, the good news is that the article may have vastly overstated the situation. Anecdotally, Thebeerchaser in multiple visits to the nine PDX bars reviewed so far in 2015, ranging from dive bars such as the Yamhill Pub to genteel venues such as the Pope House Bourbon Lounge to the most recent historic gem, Kelly’s Olympian – has witnessed robust and enthusiastic crowds.
And bars, like the mythical Phoenix, have a tendency to rise from the ashes. For example, Joe’s Cellar reviewed September 2011, closed because of structural issues and was reportedly gone for good. It reopened within a year and is now going strong.
The East Bank Saloon, a 36-year venue, was closed earlier this year and was reopened last month as “the blockbuster new bar” Bit House Saloon. (“Look for barrel-stave flooring, lots of brick and brass, an atrium and big French doors blowing out to a new fire pit in the back.”) The same scenario occurred with the Grand Café (reviewed in January 2013) whose proprietor was the well known, albeit controversial icon, Frank the Flake Peters, when he retired. It closed but has now reopened as the Pour Sports Bar and Grill.
A WW article late last year speculated that the historic treasure – the Skyline Tavern (reviewed in January 2014)would be closed and the property developed. The paper recently updated the news and reported that Scott Ray Becker, a local filmmaker, is the new owner and he plans to improve the bar including serving quality food rather than just micro-wave popcorn and pre-packaged sandwiches. Produce Row has also reopened.
And there’s Marcus Archambeault and Warren Boothby, who previously have done wonders refurbishing or resurrecting bars such as Club 21 (reviewed in September 2014) which replaced a lackluster predecessor.
The refurbished Sandy Hut, is the latest example of their genius, and the changes to this historic dive bar will ensure that the beloved “Handy Slut” will serve a lot more PBR in future years. “..the sort of rearrangement a mother might give her son’s bedroom after he finally moves out: scrub the stink out of the carpets, move some furniture around and open a damn window.” Willamette Week 6/24-30/2015
Not to belabor the point, but let’s also consider the new Loyal Legion Bar – scheduled to open in July 2015 at Southeast Sixth and Alder, (“….about 120 seats clustered around a circular bar with kegs kept in a 50-foot long walk-in cooler in the basement .”) serving 99 beers in the historic building formerly housing the Police Athletic Association.
Or there is the once resurrected Bitter End Saloon on West Burnside – a Portland Timbers bar reopened in 2013 – closed again in April 2015, but evidently to be reincarnated again – as St. Helens a new bar.
And what about breweries and brewpubs? Portland now has more than any other city in the world – last year, according to the Oregon Brewers’ Guild, 28 new breweries opened in the Portland metro area. The total is now 83.
Many bemoaned the acquisition of Bend’s 10 Barrel Brewing by Annheiser Busch; however, shortly thereafter they opened a new 6,200 square foot pub in Portland on NW Flanders seating 175, with plans for a rooftop beer garden this summer .
Those like Thebeerchaser, who love the unique character and ambiance of Portland’s 750 + bars and taverns, should be more concerned with trends such as Burgerville, Starbucks, Music Millenium and theaters serving beer – “Entering a movie theater that doesn’t serve alcohol feels like finding a dry county in Nevada. (“It’s now) get your ticket, get your popcorn, get your pint. In fact, it suggests that very soon, theaters which serve beer and wine will soon outnumber those which don’t.”
I hope your join me in believing that people should drink their beers at their neighborhood bar – not at a fast food joint, a coffee shop run by an international corporation or a Regal Cinema. As quoted previously in this blog:
“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern.” Samuel Johnson
“A bar is better than a newspaper for public discussion.” Author, Jim Parker
This is not to suggest that bar closures such as Slabtown, with its rich history, are not a loss and sterile corporate brew pubs don’t come close to replacing a venerable neighborhood bar. However, there are still a lot of new establishments ready to garner a loyal clientele and join the idiosyncratic hole-in-the-walls just waiting to become the new Cheers. The Lost and Found started by two female entrepreneurs in 2013 in North Portland is a great example. Another one – Shift Drinks – recently founded by two former Multnomah Whiskey Library employees on SW Morrison. Another trend is the advent of cider bars.
I will close this section with evidence from my own journey. In almost four years, I have reviewed 63 different bars and pubs in Portland. (And almost all of them were memorable…)
Only 29 of these made the “2015 Willamette Week Bar Guide” – their reporters’ 125 favorite watering holes. I am not worried about running out of establishments to visit on my continuing journey…..!
What About the Lawyers – I have talked to a number of lawyers for whom brewing was initially a hobby – until they realized that they enjoyed their avocation more than practicing law and are now an integral part of the craft brewing scene in Portland. Examples are the owner of the Occidental Brewery in St. Johns and Kevin Brannon, now a partner in the new Beaverton venue, Brannons’ Pub and Brewery. There are others as well.
It’s also interesting to note how attorneys who are still practicing law are also getting involved in the micro-craft industry. Even in 2010, the Portland Business Journal reported, “Oregon law firms are swallowing huge chunks of business as the state’s alcohol industry continues to thrive. The workload of attorneys representing wine, beer and liquor distillery interests have jumped between 20 percent and 30 percent during the last year.” (PBJ 11/19/2010)
Given some of the developments in the legal profession, perhaps the lawyer-to-brewer scenario will become a trend and lead to new “bars.” An example is reported in the ABA Newsletter, which cites the Washington D.C. lawyer who is ending his law practice to open a gourmet grilled cheese establishment combined with a wine bar. “Law lends itself to a certain kind of creativity, but this is a whole different thing.” (ABA Newsletter 2/26/2014)
And as Long as We Are on the Topic of Lawyers – My thirty-five + years working with lawyers at the Oregon State Bar and the Schwabe Williamson firm made me appreciate the passion, intelligence, commitment to civic and charitable service and communication skills of most of the individuals in this honorable profession. And one of the most interesting traits is their unabashed creativity in defending their position – some people mistake this for arrogance…..
Two of my favorite examples occurred a number of years ago, but are still good examples – both involve prominent Portland attorneys and the accounts were reported in The Oregonian at the time. The third is from the weekly American Bar Association newsletter – always a good source of bizarre legal stories
Akin Blitz : While driving his German luxury car over a mountain pass and trying to get ahead of multiple vehicles including an RV – he asserted in court with a Powerpoint presentation supporting his position – that he had no idea he was traveling 76 mph in a 55 mph zone because of the vehicle’s “handling characteristics.” The judge, in fining him $182, informed him that Mr. Blitz – not the automaker was at fault.
Marc Abrams: Even more creative, this former Portland School Board member, explained his 88 mph speed (in a 65 mph zone) on Interstate 84 by the fact that he was following a deputy sheriff. Making the case more interesting was the deputy’s response that he was going 75 mph when Abrams first started following him and the deputy increased to 88 mph before he cited Abrams who continued to follow him. In a two-page letter to the court defending his actions the lawyer stated:
“I therefore have no basis to know my speed, having simply assumed I was within the limits on the basis of actions of the officer who subsequently cited me for doing precisely what he was doing.”
To bolster his position and because at the time, he was an Oregon Senior Assistant Attorney General, the intrepid lawyer offered a second defense – a statute that he asserted gave him immunity as a Justice Department employee (he was driving to Pendleton to meet with another lawyer on a State case). Unfortunately, neither the judge nor Abrams’ boss at the time – Attorney General Hardy Myers – agreed with this rationale. One of Myers’ Deputy AGs reportedly wrote in an interoffice memo that
- The DOJ disagreed with this interpretation of ORS 464.530.
- Abrams was not authorized to represent to the court that his argument reflects the views of the AG’s office.
- The AG does not believe that any part of the state law immunizes the department’s employees from prosecution for traffic offenses.
The good news (at least for Abrams) was that the police officer cited him for the 75 mph speed and his ticket was $97 rather than $145 it would have been for the higher figure. (Based on the dollar amounts, you can tell that this was a number of years ago!)
Texas Lawyer, Martin Zimmerman: When his drunken driving defendant client blamed Zimmerman for his conviction (he didn’t remember his client’s name during jury selection, called no witnesses and fell asleep during the trial.)
“Zimmerman blamed sleep apnea for his naps during the trial….but defended his courtroom performance (rating it) an eight or nine out of ten……Zimmerman is planning on running for a judgeship next year, but he told the (Texas Express News) he doesn’t expect his napping to affect the election.” (ABA newsletter 9/18/13)
And Maybe a Lawyer Should be Retained by this Saloon – While Republican Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee has adopted the campaign manifesto “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” a Deadwood, South Dakota saloon has a slight deviation (so to speak).
As reported last year by the Associated Press, his business complex would include a gun shop, pawn shop and a combined shooting range/bar offering expensive cigars to be named The Bullets and Beer Saloon. (Evidently his plans were successful as the link above is for the home page of their website)
“It’s all the things I like: alcohol, tobacco and firearms,” he stated.
To assuage those concerned about safety, he stated, “No one shoots or handles a real gun unless they can blow a 0.00 on a breathalyzer.” Furthering his business case, the proprietor also offers a simulator used to train law enforcement officers interactively. “We’re not using live ammo or a live gun or anything like that……It’s almost like gun karaoke.”
And the Deadwood City Council is doing its part by requiring no more than 50% of the business income can be derived from alcohol sales.
Beerchasing on the Springwater Trail
Last month, to offer a respite on an 18 mile bike ride along Portland’s wonderful Springwater Trail, Beerchaser regular, David Dickson, and I stopped on the return loop to have lunch and a brewski at the Springwater Station – a great dive bar on 82nd Ave. where the bike corridor crosses.
“From the looks of the building design, both inside and out, this bar/restaurant must have been a beautiful place 20 or so years ago. It is not currently a dive bar – but just give it a couple more years of neglect and it will easily fall into that category.” (Yelp June 2013)
April, the friendly and informative bartender, who also tends bar at Area 52 – “a blues bar with great jazz,” located in the Woodstock neighborhood on SE 52nd Str. filled us in.
David and I sat at the bar with some friendly regulars and consumed a draft beer while wolfing down a wonderful three-piece fish and chips special for the unbelievable price of $4.50. (We decided to splurge rather than opt for the two-piece option for $3.50.) If you are cycling or jus driving SE 82nd, stop and say hello to April.