Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive

Thebeerchasing group - minus Cheryl Rath at Bill Rays on MLK Blvd.

Thebeerchasing group – minus Cheryl Rath at Bill Rays on MLK Blvd.

When I saw the March 9, 2016 Portland Mercury article entitled, “Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive: A Springboard for Bad Decisions,” I knew I had to make this great dive bar, the next stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs.

P1040531And one of the distinct pleasures of my Beerchasing hobby, has been sharing most visits with companions who like beer but perhaps concurrently have poor judgment as evidenced by the three gents in the picture above.  The photo also affirms the assertion of the Mercury reporter who also gave some evidence – the best example:

In ’47, two men hailed a Broadway Cab outside its doors, produced a revolver and submachine gun, and forced the young driver to whisk them to the hinterlands of SE 145th and Foster. They argued—drunkenly—about who should tie up the cabbie. They fled with the cab.

The trio in the photo above are Brian (Brain) King and Brien Flanagan, members of the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt Natural Resources Group and John Mansfield, an intellectual property lawyer, who has his own firm – Mansfield Law is on the right.  Cheryl Rath, also a lawyer, joined us on the great patio in the back of the bar, but not in the picture is an Assistant Professor of business law, sports law and sports management in the Business School at Concordia University besides practicing law at her firm, Rath Legal.   More about this quartet after some of the scoop on Bill Ray’s:  P1040536

“Billy Ray’s has occupied that long, skinny building only since around the turn of the millennium….., but the ghosts of those past dives—of Marv’s, and the Montana, and who knows how many others—still clatter their empty mugs against the copper bar top. For me, it is the Portland dive bar…….

B. Ray’s is still maddeningly, charmingly a cash-only establishment that refuses to serve decent food (take your pick from an assortment of TV dinners, peanuts, or chips), although they welcome any outside fare you might bring in. The Medieval Madness pinball table upstairs is still somehow working. The re-entry policy—’You may re-enter Billy Ray’s once per day’—is still in force, and ‘Surfin’ Bird’ is still on the jukebox. The smell of stale beer still hits you well before you walk in.” (Excerpt from March 9, 2016 Portland Mercury article)

Having fought Portland’s ugly traffic, which redefined the meaning of gridlock (By the way, Mayor Hales, “Better Naito” doesn’t work…..) I was late.  Brian King, however, concerned about his carbon footprint and also based on his premise, “You meet very nice people on the bus after dark,” took the MLK Tri-Met Line 6 both to the bar and back to the firm late that evening.

An intellectual crew with Thebeerchaser logo.

An intellectual crew with Thebeerchaser logo.

After walking through the long, narrow and dark bar interior, I joined the others  on the patio. Brian and Cheryl were downing Tekate in cans, and I asked them why they didn’t try one of the four beers on tap (PBR, Jonny Utah Fresh Hops from Georgetown Brewing in Seattle, Lagunitas IPA and Worthy Easy Day Kolsch).

Only four beers on tap, but a lot of options in cans...

Only four beers on tap, but a lot of options in cans…

Brain responded for both of them:

“Based on the Presidential campaign, we empathize with our Mexican friends, and if Trump is going to build a wall, we think it should be with cans of our favorite Mexican beer. (empty cans I assume…)”

schwabe logo

Concern about Presidential candidate bias.......

Concern about Presidential candidate bias…….

 

 

I might add that all four lawyers were at Schwabe while I served as the Chief Operating Officer and the firm, besides having excellent lawyers, is known for its amiable culture and sense of humor.

For example, Mansfield, who last went Beerchasing with me at Church (where the bar’s motto is, “Eat, Drink, Pray, Repent”) suggested we again pin a copy of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses on the entrance to Billy Ray’s.  Not to be denied, he argued that since Billy Ray’s was on Martin Luther King Blvd. it would still be appropriate.  

"Eat, Drink, Pray, Repent and remember the 95 Theses

“Eat, Drink, Pray, Repent and remember the 95 Theses

Although many IP lawyers have undergraduate degrees in Physics, Mathematics, Chemical Engineering or other hard sciences, Mansfield is more culturally refined having received his degree at the U of O in Music (theory and composition) before earning his Masters in Political Science at Portland State and finishing his education with his law degree at Cornell where he graduated Magna Cum Laude.

He tried to show his expertise in environmental topics by stating, “You know it’s not pollution or industry that is harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water.”

Spacious game room upstairs....

Spacious game room upstairs….

There were only a few people inside – more on the patio – but it’s small enough downstairs that it seemed reasonably busy.  No one was in the spacious game room upstairs with ping-pong, old fashioned pinball machines and a pool table.  Both of the bartenders I met, Mara and Tammy were friendly.

To keep things from becoming "shady

To keep things from becoming “shady

I asked Tammy the rationale for the sign about re-entry and she replied, “So we don’t have anything shady happen, although we rarely enforce it.”  I guess I’m still confused about the policy; however, I do understand why they have a cash-only policy.

Tammy - helpful and friendly

Tammy – helpful and friendly

This excerpt from the Willamette Week 2016 Bar Guide, like the Mercury article, paints a great image:

“Like Benjamin Button, Johnny Cash and Greg Oden, Billy Ray’s was born old…….. the place looks like it was left abandoned on the side of a rural highway in the 1950s and reopened by squatters who have yet to figure out how a card reader is supposed to work. In truth, its current incarnation has only been around for about a decade. ……..

The sign out front reading ‘tavern’ seems permanently on the blink, the restrooms are a scared-straight program for anyone nervous about peeing in prison, and if you order food, it’s time to seriously re-evaluate some things. All this, of course, is part of the ramshackle charm…..”

P1040538The bar is owned by Portlander, Billy Ray Lenz, and although his picture hangs in the doorway, it is not named for former Portland Trailblazer, Billy Ray Bates.

The bar actually has some interesting art, most notably, the wood mural upstairs – a map of the US which was a collaboration of fifty employees, patrons and friends and for a period hung in former Mayor Sam Adams office.

Original and collaborative art

Original and collaborative art

Now back to my companions – Brien Flanagan, although he looks very youthful, has fifteen years of experience and is the Practice Group Leader for Schwabe’s Environmental, Energy, and Natural Resources Practice Group.

Given his surname, you will not be surprised that his undergraduate degree was at Notre Dame and he went on to graduate from the prestigious Georgetown Law School, where he met his wife, Nooby,

Flanagan resumeHe is a skilled litigator with a great sense of humor as you will see below.  Brien has handled all aspects of the development process including permitting; investigation and remediation of contaminated property; environmental compliance, including hazardous waste management and stormwater regulations. He knows environmental regs very well and is even working on permitting a gold mine and representing a coal mine owner in federal litigation.

At firm retreats, I used to make an award for the best e-mail each year and Brien won it in 2009 after he sent an inquiry to firm personnel for a referral to help him remove two trees at his house.   His response to the inquiries was as follows:

“Because of the number of responses I got regarding the importance of trees to the environment, please be assured that I am removing his tree purely because it disturbs the view from my living room window and it drops berries onto our patio that I find annoying.

I will be replacing it with a paved impermeable cement surface and invasive non-indigenous plants that I will treat with outdated and generally illegal pesticides.”

One would think Brien would be less naïve about asking for referrals after that although I guess he thought firm management was above some of the juvenile humor when he acted upon a facetious recommendation I gave him in 2010. He had been having some concerns with his heart and asked if anyone could recommend a Portland cardiologist.

Careful on what referral you accept on this.....

Careful on what referral you accept on this…..

As background, Portlanders (at least most who followed the news) were amazed at the media frenzy on Dr. Jayant Patel, a Kaiser physician who was labeled by the media as Dr. Death because of repeatedly botching operations and performing surgeries he was not qualified to handle.

He had previous trouble in New York and “Kaiser banned him from liver and pancreatic surgeries in 1998 after reviewing 79 complaints.  The Oregon Board of Medical Examiners later cited him for ‘gross or repeated acts of negligence.”  He was extradited to Australia where he went on trial and received a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to fraud.

Brien’s e-mail to me after he called Kaiser cardiology to set up an appointment with Dr. Patel stated,”The receptionist asked me if I was trying to be funny….”

2016-07-28 20.25.12Brien redeemed himself that night by recommending that we eat at Russell’s Barbecue, less than a block away from Billy Ray’s.  We had PBR in old-fashioned bottles and each of us loved the food served by our friendly waitress, Heidi Mae seen in the picture below.

2016-07-28 20.26.57I might add that I was curious about a line of about 200 people across the street from Russell’s which appeared to be outside Bunk Bar.   John Mansfield, who represents some marijuana enteprenuers, however, informed us that they were lined up to get into the Wonder Ballroom for the free concert on the Leafly Comedy Tour.   P1040542

Cheryl Rath, the other person at Billy Ray’s although she opted to “see history being made,” when rather than joining us at Russell’s, she watched Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination.

Hillary in acceptance speech while Milania in the hat listens along with Cheryl....

Hillary in acceptance speech while Milania in the hat listens along with Cheryl….

Cheryl, besides being a great lawyer and a talented professor is also an amazing athlete.  Both she and Donald Trump are graduates of the University of Pennsylvania and then she earned her Master’s Degree in Sports Management at the University of Massachusetts before graduating from law school at the U of O.

An outstanding jump shot....

An outstanding jump shot….

——-

 

 

She was named the outstanding female athlete at Penn in 1989, where she played lacrosse and basketball and had stints as Assistant Basketball Coach at both Penn and Lewis and Clark before starting law school.

And finally, just a few words about “Brain” King, who deserves more and will be addressed in a forthcoming Beerchaser post about the Stanley Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Idaho.  Brian played a key role in  my two visits to that fabled dive bar.

But he is an excellent attorney in all aspects of environmental law.  As has been implied by this post, he also has an advanced, albeit irreverent, sense of humor.  If you want a great example, read the essay he wrote that was published in Oregon Live in 2009, when he and his wife were in Denmark http://www.oregonlive.com/travel/index.ssf/2009/12/only_the_strong_survive_julefr.html

It’s about Julefrokost, a Christmas lunch normally held in December with traditional Danish foods and lots of alcohol.   It will make you laugh in your aquavit or Tekate. For example: “One of my Danish friends told me that one of his favorite Julefrokosts,  featured a tank of helium and a karaoke machine.”  

Aquavit - Skoal!

Aquavit – Skoal!

Brian “anchors” the firm’s Corvallis office – his wife is a full professor at Oregon State University where she teaches Business Law.  He went to undergraduate school at Colorado State in Fort Collins, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa notwithstanding his propensity for frequenting the same bars that Thebeerchaser found compelling when we spent ten days in Colorado.  https://thebeerchaser.com/tag/the-town-pump-fort-collins/

His law degree is from the University of Colorado and Brian’s practice focuses on environmental and worker safety law.

Brain King offers a prayer up to his favorite beverage

Brain King offers a prayer up to his favorite beverage and the gods of Julefrokost.

And Brain likes beer, admitting that he and his wife occasionally like to drink wine, but to avoid the impression that he is not loyal to the malty brew, he often puts his empty wine bottles in his neighbor’s glass recycling bin in order not to give the wrong impression.

Upon reflection, perhaps my thirty plus years working with attorneys emanated from my experience in second grade at Miami Hills Grade School in Madeira, Ohio.   I told Miss Whipple, the teacher, that I thought the characters in our reading primer – Ted and Sally and their pets, Boots and Tuffy were boring and acted like wimps, whereupon she yelled at me, “May your life be filled with lawyers!”  

That turned out to be true and has worked out pretty well.  At least she didn’t utter the curse, “May you have visions of narcissists with orange hair…..”  I think that would have made me move to Canada……

P1040533The robust juke box added to the ambiance of Billy Ray’s and overall, The Beerchaser concurs with the premise advanced by the Mercury reporter: “Billy Ray’s is a hell of a dive!”  You should find out yourself.

Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive Bar     

2216 NE Martin Luther King Blvd.

Church – Eat, Drink (Pray) – Repent!

Lawyer John Mansfield at the somewhat plain entrance to Church

Lawyer John Mansfield at the somewhat plain entrance to Church

Church is a relatively new bar on 26th and NE Sandy.  Opened in 2013, it has an intriguing interior to mitigate the nondescript exterior and lack of a really viable patio.  Willamette Week, in its review accurately states, “Though it is a neighborhood bar in no neighborhood at all, it’ll likely gather a congregation,” – affirmed on both of our visits – an energetic crowd to complement the friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Mansfield in a margarita toast to the 95 Theses

Mansfield in a margarita toast to the 95 Theses

I was joined by one of Thebeerchaser regulars, Portland intellectual property lawyer, John MansfieldJohn thought he could cause a stir and gain some publicity by emulating his hero, 16th century theologian, Martin Luther, and tacking 95 patents to the door of Church to commemorate Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses at the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg in 1517.

Martin_Luther

Martin Luther

Indeed, besides the physical resemblance one can glean from these pictures, Mansfield and Luther share some other traits.  Luther translated the Bible to the vernacular and Mansfield converts the language of patents and IP procedures into coherent terms that his clients can understand.

The name provides a marketing challenge, of sorts....

The name provides a marketing challenge, of sorts….

A Google search for Church yields 221 million possible hits and for “Church Bar,” a total of 490 million – an interesting fact in itself, but it raises the same question I asked the owner of the recently Beerchaser-reviewed (April 2013 post) bar “Beer.”  How do you market your establishment on-line and help people find it given the generic moniker?

Although there are also bars named “Church” in Webster England, Lakewood Ohio, Portland Maine and Atlanta, our research found that a new trend is also to have Sunday church services in a bar – possibly an answer to the statistical question above.  It’s the case in both Forth Worth and Abilene, Texas.  (Of course, if Rick Perry is your governor, it would motivate one to both drink and pray without ceasing…)

I like answer the Abilene pastor gave to the following question: Will alcohol be served at Bar Church?      

Is it kosher to drink in Church???

Is it kosher to drink in Church???  Ask Sam, the bartender.

“Jesus seemed more interested in connecting with people than he was interested in debating questions like this.  We like Jesus’ approach.  The fact is that we meet in a bar, and some people are probably going to want to order a drink.”

One of the other pastors stated, “If Jesus came in the door, he’d probably laugh.”

———-

Distinguishing Characteristics

The impressive interior

The impressive interior

The Décor – The dark recycled wood panels on the wall have inlays shaped like steeples and catch the light from very large windows at the front of the bar.  Bottles and wood

Medieval trappings integrated into the décor enhance the impact as does one of the other unique  items – a confessional booth which is actually a slick photo booth (see below).       

Bartender, forgive me, for I have sinned. "It has been five minutes since my last Bloody Mary...."

Bartender, forgive me, for I have sinned. “It has been five minutes since my last Bloody Mary….”

Inside the confessional is a high-quality digital camera, which will take about 8 photos of the “penitents” and through a custom-made software program transmit them to social media for posting – pretty slick although not medieval and raising issues regarding the sanctity or confidentiality of this bar sacrament (to be resolved over cocktails…) 

P1010923

Catharsis in the booth….

The Food – The menu at Church is impressive with enough Southern standards to make one feel like he’s at a Baptist convention.  Although we did not eat, we met Javier, the chef, and he is proud of the selection and the quality and he was knowledgeable about his craft.

For example, hush puppies, glazed pork belly and corn bread, biscuits and gravy, grits and even their tofu dish has black-eyed peas.  They reportedly have a great burger and their ribs are only $5 during Happy Hour.

Also a selection of oysters and as stated in the Portland Tribune review in June 2013, “A sign over the bar reads, “Eat. Drink. Repent.” It’s a little unsettling, especially when you’re talking about shellfish — but we remained unrepentant.”

Unsettling - when eating oysters.....!

Unsettling – when eating oysters…..!

Mansfield with Brian Block, one of the owners and the traditional Beerchaser logo.

Mansfield with Brian Block, one of the owners and the traditional Beerchaser logo.

The Cocktails It’s an eclectic and creative cocktail menu which adds to a nice selection of nine wines and eight beers, although we were somewhat surprised,  that there were only two beers and a rotating cider on tap. (We had the Pfriem Blond IPA from the Hood River brewery – their rotating micro, which was very good.) John also had an excellent margarita.

An ambitious project would be to work one’s way through the ten interesting cocktails in addition to a “rotating punch.”  Most of the drinks are consistent with the religious theme:  For example, “The Great Fire” is tequila, lime, grapefruit, sugar, dill and cayenne, while “Sunday Morning” is buffalo trace, Drambuie, ginger syrup, lemon, Angostura and bubbles?.  “Death from Above” and “Old World Prayer” were also worthy of a future indulgence.

P1010924Some of the reviews questioned the synergy of the intriguing ingredients.  And the Portland Mercury in its review opined, “As if to make a position statement, the bar offers a Pickleback: a shot of pickle brine that washes away a shot of bad whiskey—an efficient tool for those only interested in one aspect of their drinking. It lives at the end of the cocktail menu, a white flag of capitulation after all that trying.”

The two visits to Church were both good experiences and the bar’s character and décor are worth seeing.  Since Mansfield was noted for the tribute to his historical hero above, it is fitting to quote one of Thebeerchaser’s favorite intellectuals  – Lord G.K. Chesterton, a British theologian, essayist, philosopher, newspaper columnist and novelist, who lived from 1874 to 1936 in London.  He was known for his love of food and drink and sometimes said grace before lighting a cigar.  He once stated:

Brilliant, prolific and humorous theologian, philosopher and author, Lord Chesterton

Brilliant, prolific and humorous theologian, philosopher and author, Lord Chesterton

“No animal ever invented anything as bad as drunkenness – or as good as drink.”

Based on two more quotes, I think he would enjoy the crowd and the theme of Church:

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.”

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”

Stop in at Church (Happy Hour from 4 to 7 and midnight to 2 A.M. every day with $2-$4 drafts and $3 well drinks) and have a chicken gizzard salad washed down with an “Old World Prayer”cocktail (Monopolowa vodka, green chartreuse, pear juice, lemon, green tea syrup and juniper) and then receive absolution in the confessional.

John Mansfield in lawyer mode....

John Mansfield in lawyer mode….

Church                    2600 NE Sandy