(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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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 Pub – this 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.)
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.
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?)
Wear Your Mask, Stay Safe and Blessings in the New Year.