Destiny of the Dives!

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

My beloved City is a MESS!

Portland, Oregon – the Rose City – again made national news last week because of continuing riots.   The city has served as an unfortunate national example of the most contentious and continuous riots/demonstrations since March.

A riot in August and still going on….

Many of those participating are exercising their First Amendment rights and feel strongly about the causes eliciting their participation.

That said, many just revel in  looting, indiscriminate violence and attacking law enforcement officers and demonstrators opposed to their views – if they even have them.

The question is how long does this continue especially given the impact on downtown businesses, many of which are small family-owned enterprises.   A 1/24 headline in  Oregonian entitled, “Pedestrians Vanish from Downtown” stated that foot traffic is down 80% from 2019.

Economist, Bill Conerly

Well known Oregon economist, Bill Conerly, describes the current situation and the implications in an excellent article in Forbes Magazine entitled “Death Of A City – The Portland Story.”

The impressive high-rise building in which I worked for twenty five years now has a fence around it to prevent vandalism and Starbucks and other vendors have disappeared from its lobby. (They were possibly going to remove it after the Inauguration.)

PacWest Center –Now fenced off and mostly vacant lobby.

This led the Oregonian in a January 22, story to ask, “What are we Marching for?  On inauguration days in Portland, protestors and observers wonder alike.”

“An on-the-ground view of Wednesday’s protest shows the lack of cohesion, the divergent ideas of what constitutes free speech in Portland and the turbulence of the crowd…..’I don’t know where the %*#% I’m going, but I don’t give a *&^%,’ yelled Princess Warner (20)……’This is the worst *&^% march I’ve ever attended,’ another one yelled.”

Other than hoping that someone shows Princess the *&^%$ way to Disneyland, I won’t make any other comments except to say, the riots are a primary factor contributing to the demise of my beloved dive bars (and other businesses.)

A grunge bar with character…

Just a few blocks away from where this unlawful assembly occurred and my former office, is the diminutive Yamhill Pub – not a dive, but a noted grunge bar that I featured in 2015 – home of $1.50 PBR Happy Hours.

In my last post I wrote about the GoFundMe campaign to save the Yamhill – struggling to survive based on pandemic considerations and restrictions.  Although the pub had a Facebook post on January 5th, nobody answered the phone tonight (Friday) – not a good sign.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2021/01/07/leaving-2020-in-good-taste/

The grunge bar interior at the Yamhill

The Concern….

I have written about dive bars before in Thebeerchaser – first trying to define them in 2011 – “Analyzing Dive Bars Head First” but also periodically citing the concern about their continuing existence.  A Portland Mercury article in 2016 featuring the Portland Dive Bar Preservation Society stated:

“Portland’s lost a bunch of dive bars recently. A few were absolute shitholes that deserved to disappear, but most were victims of circumstance and change. A number of other bars have changed ownership and been fancied up to suit the modern market. Dive bars, if not endangered, are at the very least under threat.”

This 2016 piece listed twelve classic Portland dives that might be endangered:

Reel’ M Inn, Billy Rays, Kenton Social Club, Georges, the Trap, Ship Ahoy, Blue Diamond, Tavern on Denver, Checkered Flag, My Father’s Place, Slims, Water Trough Saloon and the Lariat Lounge

Billy Ray’s – Still a Neighborhood Institution

The good news is that of these, only two have closed permanently – Tavern on Denver and the Water Trough Saloon although the legendary Reel ‘M Inn – known for its fried chicken and jojos since 1994 – is closed indefinitely.  Fortunately, the others are still pouring cheap Budweiser to regulars.

West Coast Dave Hicks at the Reel M Inn

That said, every week one can read about other bars or breweries that have not weathered the pandemic lockdowns or the depressed economy.  The following January article from Portland Eater gives a fairly extensive list of the bars and eateries (about eighty) that have closed since the Pandemic.

I would add to that list the following three bars:  the Old Gold, Paydirt and the Oregon Public House (closed indefinitely.)

Since the Oregon Public House was an innovative community experiment, we hope that later this year they will reopen and not only serve good beer, but also continue their support of deserving non-profit organizations in accordance with their motto – “Have a Pint – Change the World.”

“Have a Pint – Change the World!”

For memories sake, I will just mention a few closures of the almost 400 bars and breweries visited and reviewed by Thebeerchaser since 2011 and the links will take you to the reviews if your are interested. There are two on the list of closures that I will highlight, because they break my heart and if you read the reviews I wrote, you will understand why (Links over the name)

Crackerjacks Pubthis wonderful pub – “a beloved dive bar and pizzeria for more than 30 years” – I visited twice in 2014 and was the closest to a Cheers ambiance of any in the ten years I’ve been on this exploration of watering holes.   

Thebeerchaser outside one of his favorite stops on the Tour

Sam and Jimmy – two gems met on Thebeerchaser’s Tour

The first visit was with my good friend, “West Coast Dave Hicks” and not only was the food great – as it was on the second visit – but the Manager – Sam and the cook, Jimmy were wonderful and friendly people.

The Tanker Bar – this beloved dive bar at the east end of Portland’s Barmuda Triangle “spent the last decade serving cheap well drinks and airing Blazer games.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my most frequent Beerchasing companions – Portland lawyer, Jim Westwood and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter – whose mom was my high school Latin teacher for two years, accompanied me in 2013 and also translated the motto – in Latin on the bar’s logo – for me “In heaven there is no beer, so that’s why we drink it here.”

The regulars will miss the Naughty Bingo Nights each Tuesday which had a signature cocktail list featuring The Naughty Bingo Martini.  Jesse, the bartender, was a class act and helped make this early stop on my tour of bars a memorable one.

Jesse and Jim Westwood share stories at the corner of the bar

Sidecar 11 – this upscale “hole in the wall” bar visited in 2013, was not one of the most memorable, but distinguished itself with signature cocktails and an  impressive wine list.  The bar also featured great art by local artists.

One of the many good bars on Portland’s Mississippi Ave, Sidecar 11 closed “after years selling barrel-aged cocktails and whiskey flights.”  It also had a beautiful backbar displaying an incredible array of whiskeys.

The General and Aaron

As usual, the bartender, Aaron, was friendly and I also enjoyed my companion, retired lawyer and Air Force National Guard General, Larry Paulson, who after he left our law firm became the Executive Director of the Port of Vancouver until his retirement.

Portland Brewing – This one is also based on sentiment because my former law firm (Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt) represented them for many years.  Our partner, John Guinasso, who provided excellent legal counsel to the Brewery for many years, would periodically bring a case of their flagship beer – MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale – to the office on Friday afternoons and we would toast the end of the week.

The brewery was founded in 1986 and has flourished with a great taproom and restaurant:

“(In 2008,) it was sold to Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing and then this entity was acquired by North American Breweries in 2010 and based in Rochester, New York. Two years later in 2012 this conglomerate of breweries was purchased by Florida Ice & Farm Co., based in Costa Rica.”) 

And that, my Beerchaser friends, illustrates why we should be concerned with the future of independent breweries as well as the neighborhood dive bar.

A Hint of Optimism

I’ll close with at least some good news.  A number of existing bars and breweries – those with a combination of sufficient space, adequate capital and management creativity and just plain grit – have either expanded or innovated to stay open and in some cases, grow and prosper.  Below are some captions for the stories on these enterprises:

Buoy Tap Room – Expansion Planned

Astoria’s Buoy Beer and Pilot House Distilling Are Preparing for Growth Along the Columbia River – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

http://Migration Brewing Is Opening Its Fourth Location in the Former Hopworks Space on North Williams Avenue – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

Produce Row Cafe Has Reopened Its Patio for Service After a Two-Month Closure – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

The great patio at the reopened Produce Row

The Owners of Roscoe’s Have Turned an Old-School Chinese Restaurant Into the Craft Cocktail Bar North Portland Has Long Needed – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

Beerchaser Regular Westwood at pre-pandemic Beerchase at Mad Hanna

https://www.wweek.com/bars/2020/12/16/one-northeast-portland-dive-bars-plan-for-surviving-the-pandemic-transitioning-into-a-general-store/

The owners of Mad Hanna have come up with one of the most innovative ideas by integrating a new General Store adjacent to the bar and I would bet that it will continue to thrive after the pandemic is over.

If you have not checked out this wonderful neighborhood-dive bar, you should definitely put it on your list and try their $4.50 Happy Hour peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I am grateful to my friend Hillary Barbour, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Burgerville. who introduced it to me and I returned with Beerchaser regular, Jim Westwood. (And Northwesterners, if you have not tried Burgerville take-out during the pandemic, you are missing out.)

And you can see others examples.  For instance, last weekend Church Bar – whose motto is “Eat Drink and Repent” – did a live, virtual concert entitled, “Save Church Bar.”

Mansfield toasting 95 patents at Church

I certainly hope this innovative bar with great ambiance survives so my former Schwabe colleague, Intellectual Property attorney, Jon Mansfield, can again post his 95 Patents in commemoration of Martin Luther’s 1517 masterpiece “Ninety-five Theses” on the entrance.

16th Century Theologian Martin Luther

As you can see by the example from the photo above while Jon was drinking a cocktail at the bar, he and the great theologian have a striking resemblance!

Onward and Upward

But all of us – whether in Portland, Boston or Amsterdam – can help these establishments to survive until they reopen and normal Beerchasing can occur.

Get a gift card, or order takeout – food and/or a growler (tip well!)  (The Oregon Legislature passed a bill this month in Special Session in which bars can now sell cocktails-to-go provided some food is purchased with the highball.)  Or just call the owner or manager, offer encouragement and tell them you will return when you can.

Because the alternative, if many of these independent entrepreneurs go out of business, is their locations to be absorbed by Applebee’s or a bar such as the Yard House – a sterile chain of bars owned by the same corporate entity as the Olive Garden and in my 2016 review I concluded that it did not “measure up.”  (Are you prepared for unlimited garlic bread with your pint of beer?)

Portland’s Yard House – Is this the kind of entrance you want to see on your neighborhood bar?

Wear Your Mask, Stay Safe and Blessings in the New Year.

The Richmond Bar – Have a Cocktail (or a Beer) at this New Bar

The Richmond - It's cocktails make a splash on the Portland bar scene in 2014

The Richmond – Its cocktails make a splash on the Portland bar scene in 2014

Ten good draft beers to supplement the cocktail menu

Ten good draft beers to supplement the cocktail menu

Those who prefer cocktails, but  want some good draft beers as well, should check out the Richmond Bar – only about a year old and replacing the Matchbox Lounge – oft praised in the past for its great $5 burgers and good beer. It joins the list of plentiful watering holes on SE Division.

The Oregonian includes the Richmond in its listing of “Portland’s 10 Best New Bars,” and describes it as, “….. (a)surprisingly handsome and cozy spot with a British-meets-Pacific Northwest vibe decorated with tufted leather booths, imported wall paper and large wooden tables.”

West Coast Dave Hicks - A Beerchaser Regular who quotes the Sage of Baltimore

West Coast Dave Hicks – A Beerchaser Regular who quotes the Sage of Baltimore

Nate Tilden (the Portland restaurateur and “cutting edge” guy who takes meat very seriously) (also owner of Clyde Commons and Olympic Provisions – entered another of his partnerships with Portlander, Marty Schwartz.

I was pleased that Beerchaser Regular, “West Coast” (although his sales territory goes east to Chicago) Dave Hicks, was in town from his San Francisco environs to raise a mug and convey pearls of wisdom.

Hicks has been to prior Beerchaser watering holes including Crackerjacks, the Horse Brass Pub and Belmont Station.  His Princeton University under-graduate education is evident as he was quick to quote American journalist and satirist, H.L. Menken while drinking an outstanding Fort George Spruce Budd Ale – one of nine beers and one cider on tap.

dd

H. L. Mencken – Skeptical about economists and politicians but not beer

“24 hours in a day – 24 beers in a case –  Coincidence.  I think not.”   

Before we tried the menu and imbibed in one of the cocktails, I took Dave’s suggestion – a bottle of Duchesse De Bourgogne – a reddish-brown ale from the West-Flanders region of Belgium.  And although he is not fluent in Dutch, he taught me the correct pronunciation to order it.

Duchesse De Bourgogne - easier to drink than pronounce....

Duchesse De Bourgogne – easier to drink than pronounce….

The Richmond is cozy and low-key.  You order your drinks and food at the bar and even during Happy Hour, it had a nice vibe.   We talked to Kelly, the bartender, who has worked there for just a few months and moved from Clyde Commons – which has also supplied chefs.

The bar has a rotating selection of “hand pies” and Dave enjoyed the ham pie, which the  Portland Tribune Beef and Brew column described as, “….juicy Olympic Provisions sweetheart ham, smoked cheddar and – instead of predictable root vegetables – roasted cauliflower.”   I enthusiastically devoured the wild boar and sweet corn pie.  The most recent choices for pies on their website are a roasted venison and a vegetable option. 

The robust menu shows mainly pub food with an Old English theme – and you know the OP meat is going to be superb.  The offerings include mac & cheese, a number of burgers and sandwiches, salads and some esoteric snacks such as Pickled Eggs and Anchovies, Pork and Pistachio Pate, and Roast Beef and Turnips.  Take a dollar off any item during their Happy Hour from 4:00 to 6:00 every day and all day on Sunday.

Kelly - a skilled mixologist

Kelly – a skilled mixologist

We were pleasantly surprised based on our limited sampling of their twelve original cocktails, and ours deserved the reputation the Richmond has garnered.

I had the Strong Water ($10) – stirred with rye, cardamaro, averna, dry vermouth and bitters – ingredients departing from what you would expect Thebeerchaser to be accustomed to – barley, malt, hops and yeast.

Hicks had a Paloma ($8) – tequila, grapefruit shrub, lime and jalapeno simple.  I did not have the courage to ask what was the difference between plain grapefruit and “grapefruit shrub.”

The Paloma and Strong Water - what in the heck is cardamaro??

The Strong Water and the Paloma – what in the heck is cardamaro??

A return trip would probably mean trying the Park Life, the Incider or the Mo Betta or the June Bug although that would still only cover one-half of their mixed drink lineup.

Skilled mixologists..

Skilled mixologists..

The Richmond has its own nice character, classy décor, the bartenders were skilled and friendly and as Willamette Week concluded in its review, “The cozy, tasteful little bar does absolutely nothing wrong – except perhaps doing nothing wrong.”

 

Their website is pretty basic, but has their drink and food menu and information on their Happy Hour.  However, if you’re searching for “The Richmond Bar,” be specific and expand your search terms or you may end up reading about a bunch of lawyers in the oldest  bar association in Virginia (founded in 1856).

And who can impugn the motives of those whose goal is “to promote legal science and the administration of justice…..while meeting the challenges of our rapidly changing profession.”  

Bartender Kelly and Thebeerchaser with the logo

Bartender Kelly and Thebeerchaser with the logo

 

Since West Coast Dave Hicks is also a lawyer, he would drink to that mission!

And by the way, if you are still wondering, cardamaro is an Italian herbal wine-based liqueur flavored with a relative of the artichoke and blessed thistle among other herbs and spices.

And grapefruit shrub is a sweet-tart infusion of vinegar and fruit.

A nice ambiance to complement good food and beverage options

A nice ambiance which complements the good food and beverage options

 

The Richmond Bar     3203 SE Division