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.
And 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:
“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.
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).
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…)”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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…..”
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.
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,
He 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.
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….”
Brien 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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……
The 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.