Death of a Dive Bar


In the past I’ve talked about one of my favorite divebars, the Scoreboard. Well Friday I just found out that it’s being sold, one of the owners is in much needed rehab, and that there is the possibility of the staff losing their jobs. The crappy thing is that no one had bothered to let the staff know about the situation. It probably happens a lot in this type of business, but it’s sad to see it happen to someplace I really like to hang out and to a lot of very nice bartenders and cooks potentially having to find work elsewhere.

My main concern is what’s going to happen to the place when they switch over management. The whole area around 50th and Division has been popping up with new businesses, and has had a major facelift. I doubt that the clientele who hang out at Petit Provence next store are going to want another dive going in. I would be completely bummed if it becomes another smokeless shiny place catering to the appletini/winebar crowd. Portland has plenty of those opening up every five minutes.

We are slowly losing our dark frumpy spaces that smell like stale ashtrays and despair. Where are the older guys who sit and nurse a Coors Light for two hours supposed to go so they can get out of the house and have a little human interaction? I guess it’s just an indication of how Portland is changing as a city. But we might luck out with someone deciding to keep the place the same, warts and all. In the meantime G and I will keep hanging out at our usual spots at the bar until they kick us out. I can see Charles Bukowski shedding a tear like the old 70’s commercial with the Native American guy looking at all the litter.

18 Comments so far

  1. Gresham Pete (unregistered) on July 16th, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

    There’s always Gresham.

  2. Justin (unregistered) on July 16th, 2007 @ 6:30 pm

    Always loved The Commodore in my single, drinking days…

  3. Omega Concern (unregistered) on July 16th, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

    Yes, Kai. This type of thing happens in this business all the time. I’ve worked for many a dive that has been bought and sold while I was employed there. But for a new owner to replace the entire staff is very unusual, unless the place is closed down so it can undergo a new genesis and reincarnate as something else. Bar owners are in it to make money, and your point is well taken that the neighborhood is changing and that another place might be imagined as “fitting in” better inbetween the bakery and the vegetarian Chinese place. While I might feel that is likely, it is just conjecture.

    In fairness to the current owners, I don’t think they had much notice themselves, although it may have looked like a train wreck in slow motion. They just didn’t have the means or the saavy to make that old jalopy go. But I think their intentions were good.

    It is kind of sad because I’m not fond of foo fooey, expensive, burb snobbery and the calculator or chart used to calculate a tip.
    There used to be a time when you could talk to a friend in a dark, windowless pit about your problems over a smoke and a drink. Now, they ARE the problem, according to those who know better than we do. And the writing is on the wall to be sure: the legislature and the governor will outlaw smoking in dives to take effect Jan. 2009. Then everyplace will be like Eugene where the best you can hope for is that the pariah smokers will be accommodated with huddled cliques around a coffee can outside. Even thought I don’t smoke, I feel that you can put a warning on the door if your really have to; but in the end, it’s alot like trying to regulate TV. If you don’t like what’s on, turn it off. This dive has had many manifestations but I don’t know much about what it was like before it was Darwin’s Theory. It’s been around for some time. But, alas, you are correct. They are like roadside kitsch….going by the wayside.

    Don’t be too worried about the employees. In the end, bartenders and cooks are like gypsies. Just move on to the next one…You have to be aware of that if you’re in this business very long.

    As for Gresham—I’ll leave that alone.

    More later–

  4. I'll Be Out in 2009 (unregistered) on July 16th, 2007 @ 8:09 pm

    o’ contraire…..

    I, for one……can’t wait for Jan. 2009 so I can begin spending tons of time in all the dive bars I’ve been missing out on. I just can’t abide the smoke & smell.

    I think you might see a lot of folks heading back to their local joints once the smoke ban goes into effect.

    I’ll be one of those nursing a cold domestic and holding court for any poor SOB too drunk enough to get away from my senseless blatherings.


  5. ns (unregistered) on July 16th, 2007 @ 8:18 pm

    This really sucks, as a regular (weekdays for lunch and after work — no weekends) of several years, this deeply saddens me. Where am I to go to get my friend mac and cheese bites, or home made soup? My glass of jack and a pbr back, mixed with a little video golf, now, when a long day at work beats me down?

    It’s odd — the owners seemed so happy that they got permission to setup outside seating… was that a last ditch effort to save Scoreboard as we know it?

  6. Omega Concern (unregistered) on July 16th, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

    No. Not a last ditch effort. They wanted that all along—the last owner wanted that too. They always acted as if, all the way to the day the decision was made. It simply became a case of not being financially able to sustain and the time came when the math simply could not be ignored and was no longer doable. We’ll just have to wait and see. Maybe nothing will change anytime soon. Just because it’s for sale doesn’t mean anything, until the new owner makes their intentions known. Until then, DRINK.

  7. ah ha (unregistered) on July 16th, 2007 @ 10:37 pm

    the appeal of nasty dive bars to some of my friends always baffled me. thanks for turning on the light bulb over my head. ding! they are all smokers. duh.

    i like some smokers, but i wish all-y’all would realize how disgusting that shit is. can’t we please have a bar with good music, cool people, fun games, and no smoking? no?

    i don’t like the appletini crowd at all. there’s already a new appletini bar about twenty blocks away on division across from pok pok. i’d like the appletini set to please stay in northwest portland. thanks.

  8. Kai (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 8:48 am

    Yes we divebar lovers are smokers. They’re one of the few places you can go have a drink and a smoke and not get nasty glares from the non-smoking customers because they tend to stay away. You can smoke inside at the Night Light after 10:00pm but you put up with a lot of grief. We know it’s a nasty habit but it just doesn’t feel right to be drinking a bourbon and beer back without a smokie. It ruins the whole Tom Waits song we think we’re living in.

    My friend and I did talk with one of the bartenders last night and he said it’s definitely up in the air at this point, but he also emphasized that it probably won’t change too much because the video poker brings in a huge revenue. So as Omega Concern suggested will just DRINK and see what happens.

  9. Banana Lee Fishbones (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 9:38 am

    I am anti-appletini but pro smokeless. Call it what you will, but I call it an AWFUL lot of work to get bar stank out of my hair, to the point where I will sometimes stay home just so I don’t have to do it.

    (not to derail but) MB girls, if you have any tips on how to do this I would GREATLY appreciate them!

    It is always sad when a place like this goes away, mostly because of history. Of course the fact that all cities need funky corners like this doesn’t hurt any either. RIP, Scoreboard.

  10. pdxrocket (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 9:41 am

    Want a good divebar? Go to Thatcher’s over on Stark and 80th; best one around. Scoreboard needs a facelift of sorts, the place is a pit. Why anyone would want to hang out in that place is beyond me.

  11. terebi (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 10:08 am

    If there’s no smoking, it’s not a dive. I’m getting that crying-Indian feeling, too. It is truly the end of the 20th Century… and yes, people won’t have to go home and wash their hair twice to get the smell out, and maybe we’ll be healthier, but if you want to be healthy, you shouldn’t go to bars in the first place. Alcohol is pretty bad for you, too.

  12. divebarwife (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 10:16 am

    Although I’ve never been there, I – naturally as divebarwife – lament the possible end of a good dive bar, but maybe the new owners will keep the crowd that goes there happy by not changing things around too much.

    And luckily there are still many places in Portland that do still qualify. And while I honestly can’t think of any good dives that are non-smoking (really – that’s part of what makes it a dive) the real character of the bar comes from the people who hang out there with no need to impress.

    It will be interesting when that law goes into effect to see if the client√®le really changes and all the people who said they’d come out really do, or whether the old customers all just have to sit on the patio. My guess is that people who call dives ‘nasty’ will continue to do so even after the smoke is gone.

    But BLF – my most effective no-smoke in the hair remedy is to keep it pulled back when in a really smoky place – it seems to absorb less. But when all else fails – I just spritz it with body spray.

  13. warner (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 10:17 am

    “It ruins the whole Tom Waits song we think we’re living in.”

    Best line of the week, so far! Made me smile.

  14. rico (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

    I was in there last night (Monday) and heard the news from John. Bummed me out right quick. My girlfriend and I love the Scoreboard because you can sit there and be left the fuck alone if that’s your pleasure. Or, you can ususally find a decent, if drunken conversation among the regulars at the bar. Besides having a perfect “dive bar” aesthetic going, there’s a great mix of regular working people, it’s totally unpretentious and within walking distance. If the Scoreboard as we know it goes down, unless you want to hang at the Skankiest strip club around (DV8) you’re going to have to venture down Foster into the realm of “scary dive bars”.

  15. Kai (unregistered) on July 17th, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

    G and I talked with John last night too. I agree that the thing that makes the bar nice is you can meet a hugely diverse crowd. Last night there was a group of tattooed people in their twenties, the english guy who’s name I can never remember, the long haired guy from New York, some older gentlemen, and so on. Everyone is usally really nice and if they aren’t they get to leave.

    Besides the people the Scoreboard serves a good stiff drink for cheap, their food is actually decent, and I’ve always liked the fact that as a girl I can go sit at the bar by myself and be left alone, or have a conversation if I choose to. Some of their barstaff are very well educated and are more than willing to hang out and chat if things are slow.

    I know Reel Em Inn is down the street but I never liked the vibe there. DV8 looks like some place you would catch crabs just by sitting on a barstool. JOQ’s over in NE would be my second option. It’s a gay version of a divebar and I really like the people who hang out there and they don’t even care that I’m fish. It’s just the drive home is a bit much. Maybe we’ll just end up sitting on the trainbridge by my apartment in SE with 40ozers wrapped in paper bags. The view is nice.

  16. Joe Garagiola (unregistered) on July 18th, 2007 @ 2:14 pm

    Well, even though it may be the end of a beloved stumble-joint, bars are everywhere.

    Unfortunately, there’s no distinction (post 1/2009) between smoking or non. There’s no reason why there can’t be both. I’m personally sick of the crybabies on both sides of the fence that want all bars one way or the other. Rather than get the orders from one group to the other, you should be able to vote with your dollars.

    It is democratic in a capitalistic sort of way.

    While one set sits nicely in their somewhat less stinky bar, the other bathes in sultry tar and nicotine musk, each happy and contented in their dysfunctional but comfy element.

    Oh, and BTW…

    No. There isn’t always Gresham. Gresham bites.

  17. Kai (unregistered) on July 18th, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

    Joe good to see you back. Where will you be drinking?

  18. Joe Garagiola (unregistered) on July 18th, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

    KAI, or Kai (whichever you prefer), I am a creature of habit, drinking wherever the wind blows me. Not particularly married to any specific establishment and abhorring the omnitini crowd unless it’s in a little maverick bar in San Francisco (that still allowed smoking throughout the ban brought on by the Neo-Tipper Gore nicophobes, and still does).

    In the immortal words of Fred Eckhardt, sage of the suds revolution, “the best beer in the world is the one in your hand”. If it’s good enough for St. Fred, it’s good enough for me, though I prefer a bourbon chaser.

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