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.

Produce Row Café – Take a Hike and have a Brewski!

Originally opened in 1974 and now resurrected (again) in 2014

Originally opened in 1974 and now resurrected in 2014

“There are so few of these elusive establishments, the everyday-worthy ones that time and time again just hit the spot with reliable food and atmosphere. I suppose you could find that at a super $$$ place with staff wearing coattails if you’re the 1%, but this is real life, and I don’t know how to use silverware properly.

Produce Row is one of my special oases of goodness in a world full of soggy fries and loud bars with sports on TV.  I had only been to the Row about 3 times in the year before it was shut down so abruptly, to my dismay.”  (Yelp 8/21/15)

P1030894While Portland has many new and interesting bars and pubs, Thebeerchaser’s favorites are generally the old, and many times, historic, watering holes that have been around for decades.

The Mock Crest Tavern, the White Eagle Saloon, Kelly’s Olympian and the Lutz, to name a few, are joined by the original Produce Row Café down in the Industrial District on Portland’s East Side. (See the links above for prior Beerchaser reviews on these bars.)

Kelly's Olympian - another historic bar

Kelly’s Olympian – another historic bar

It opened in 1974 and according to a 9/2/14 Oregon Live  article “One of the first owned by Mike McMenamin (yes, that McMenamin) – one of Portland’s first bars devoted to ‘good’ beer — i.e. quality imports and craft beer.”  Produce Row was sold by the McMenamins to the bar’s employees in 1978 because the McMenamins could not brew beer at that location.

Alan Davis, who now owns the Multnomah Whiskey Bar, purchased and remodeled the café in 2008.   He closed it suddenly in the fall of 2014 only for the bar to be resurrected in 2015 by Josh Johnston and James Hall, the owner of Paddy’s Bar and Grill and several other Portland bars.  Produce Row Café is now thriving and a bar worth visiting.

Historic industrial surroundings

Historic industrial surroundings in the 1940’s – Portland Archives – Vintage Portland

While we were dating in the late 1970’s, my wife and I used to hit the original establishment for a good draft beer and buy a few of the many bottled beers they sold, followed by a stop at Corno’s Market to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables.

The Produce Row District served farmers and industry well because it was accessible both by truck and the Willamette River besides having economical real estate.

Now, a resurrected Produce Row Café (see details below) joins other popular eateries such as Olympic Provisions, Bunk Bar and Clark Lewis, to name just a few, in an Urban Renewal District formed in 2012.  P1030906

The area is now:

“….home to a vibrant mix of more than 1,100 creative and industrial businesses, spanning such industries as athletic and outdoor, software, clean tech, advanced manufacturing, design, professional services, and food and beverage…….

‘More than any other neighborhood in Portland, Produce Row embodies a mindset of resourcefulness, creativity, and, above all, visionary innovation that inspires business growth,’ said (former) Portland Mayor Sam Adams. ”  (Portland Development Commission newsletter 3/2/12)

Great views from Tilikum Crossing

Great views from Tilikum Crossing

What has become a walking group of Beerchaser Regulars (David and Kate Dickson, Roy Lambert and his spouse, Mary Maxwell and Dave and Nita McAdams) had drinks and dinner at Produce Row after a stimulating several mile walk.

Starting at the east side of the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, we walked through Tom McCall Waterfront Park and across the Steel Bridge.  Then south along the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade before our final destination – Produce Row Café.  The scenery reaffirmed how scenic Portland can be.

P1030891P1030888

We ordered off a reasonably priced menu and all of us were pleased with our selections of appetizers (a plus for the fried Cauliflower, salads (the Chicken and Apple got an A+), sandwiches (the Row Burger) and entrees which included outstanding Beer Cheese Mac and Meat Loaf.

Orders Up - the Beer Cheese Mac was the most popular!

Orders Up – the Beer Cheese Mac was the most popular!

This Nikasa Dawn of the Red IRA was great

This Silver MoonVoodoo Dog ISR was great

The draft beer selection was robust with 23 beers and 2 ciders on tap.

 

P1030895

Nita and Dave McAdams and Manager, Marcus Chase

A bonus was a conversation with Produce Row’s Manager, Marcus Chase, a product of Pleasant Hill High School, whose parents farmed hazel nuts in the same area in Washington County as Dave and Nita, both of whom have other careers (Dave, a tax attorney and Nita, an educator).

Dinner and beers after a good walk

Dinner and beers after a good walk

 

The patio in the rear part of the bar has not changed much.  It is spacious and was filled with patrons: The back patio, a snug oasis of sunshine and wood tables hidden amidst neighborhood warehouses and train tracks, was among the city’s best.”  Oregon Live 9/2/14

One of the most enjoyable parts of Thebeerchaser Tour, initiated in 2011, is the stimulating people I have met in every bar ranging from the regulars, the bartenders and the managers.  This was reaffirmed when I returned to the bar and had an extended conversation with Marcus, who was joined by Nick Guest, the Bar Manager, who came to Produce Row in April, 2015.                            

Marcus and Nick with Thebeerchaser logo

Marcus and Nick with Thebeerchaser logo

Both were very knowledgeable about beer.   Marcus started his journey while being “hungry for knowledge” and living in Australia.

When asked about those who made social media comments about yearning for the original Produce Row, he responded that they want to hold on to the nostalgia but add energy through good food, creativity in their beer selection and an atmosphere that makes people want to return. Nick stated, “Our goal is to stay relevant in Portland’s burgeoning beer culture.”                 2015-11-10 18.00.24  

The Beer and Whiskey Pairings are a good example.  A concept initiated by Alan Davis that Marcus expanded and refined when he came to the bar.  “The beer and whiskey are chosen to complement each other.”

The eight pairings are interesting and diverse ranging from $8 (“The Departed”Guinness Stout and Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey) to $19 (“Werewolves and Vampires” – Silver Moon Voodoo Dog ISR and Blood Oath Whiskey – a blend of three (6 yr old wheat whiskey, 7yr old rye and 12 yr old rye).

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It appears that Marcus and Nick are succeeding based on my two visits which generated the same reaction as this review Yelp review on 6/18/15:

Traveled from the east coast and met a local couple here for dinner recently. Very eclectic atmosphere. Great staff, very helpful and friendly. Each of us had something different, and no one was disappointed. Great stop in a really nice town.”                    P1030914

And if you visit Produce Row or one of the other good eateries or bars in the Produce Row Industrial District, consider exploring the Esplanade and learning more about this vibrant area of the Portland landscape:

“More recently, that combination of access and affordability has attracted the city’s savviest entrepreneurs and forward-thinking creative professionals. These businesses have benefited from Produce Row’s adaptable urban landscape, potential for repurposing buildings, and proximity to the scenic views of the Willamette River from the Eastbank Esplanade.”

And as an aside, having two tax lawyers (Dave and Roy – now retired) added to the conversation on the hike.  I am now well-versed in the nuances of the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act as well as the IRS repair regulations project for the widely discussed and closely related Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System.  Both made me thirsty!

2015-10-20 19.39.18

Produce Row 204 SE Oak Street