I write this blog with fresh beer-flavored tears puddled on my laptop keyboard. Since 1993, Lompoc Tavern on 23rd has been that “come as you are” place to gather with friends and neighbors.This week on September 26, Lompoc will close its doors at their Northwest Portland location forever.
I barely know how to begin to express my love and sadness for our local watering hole as we approach last call. I am truly a writer without words, but I will do my best to pay a small tribute.
This won’t resonate with everyone, unless you have experienced the unapologetically charming dynamics of a true neighborhood pub. It’s not about the pub, but about what happens inside.
I always wanted my own version of Cheers, but I could never find the right spot. That all changed when I moved to Portland almost five years ago and settled into an apartment right above a locally loved brewpub…Lompoc Tavern.
Lompoc was always a place anyone could come to. Didn’t matter if you looked like shit or felt like shit, if you just worked out or were going out, if you had a fantastic day or a crap day.
When Mr. H and I first moved to Portland, one of our first pints was consumed downstairs at Lompoc. Lindley, who is now one of our friends, poured that first beer from the tap. It was an IPA, crisp and full of body like many of the best Pacific Northwest beers we hold so close to our hearts.
We didn’t know anybody yet, but we felt welcome here. We had no family or friends in Oregon, but over time we began to fill that emotional void at Lompoc.
In 2014, I came here after finishing my third novel, Nola Fran Evie, to celebrate.
Earlier this year, I came here after finishing my fourth novel, Virasana, to celebrate.
After a dry month without booze, this is where I had my first delicious beer.
Multiple discussions over Lompoc pints inspired us to leave our full-time jobs and start a business together.
“I’ll have a Gunnar.” When you’re not in the mood for a pint, this is how regulars order a smaller beer. It’s named after the outstanding guy on the far right, Gunnar.
We have started our week the same way for almost five years…at Miser Monday. This is the only place in town you can find a great beer for a smoking deal ($3.50 for a pint, but it used to be $2.50).
People read books at the bar here, because…why the hell not?
This was the best place to chat with friends and neighbors…and meet new people. There isn’t a bad spot to sit, whether you hunker down in a dark wooden booth, savor people-watching on the patio facing 23rd Avenue, or get cozy around the rad horseshoe-shaped bar.
We sat on the patio when it was nice out and when it wasn’t nice out—when we had a lot to catch up on or when we wanted to enjoy a pint together in comfortable silence.
For dreary days, Lompoc had the best dark beer in Portland, LSD (Lompoc Strong Draft), to warm you up. As soon as the temperature dropped below 60 degrees, we ordered LSD’s with manic consistency.
Our bartender, Lindley, recently said: “Fuck the groundhog. I know when it’s fall, because Hugh and Britt start ordering LSD’s.”
When my grandmother died last October, I received the text message I knew was coming from my mom while I was sitting at the bar. I stepped outside onto the Lompoc patio to give my mom a call.
I cried and looked at the street—it was dark and the leaves whispered as they fell. I went back inside after I got off the phone, because I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to be at Lompoc instead.
Mr. H and I raised our pint glasses and toasted: “To Nana.”
Lompoc Tavern was the one constant over the past five years—as we built a new life for ourselves in a foreign city, as we experienced growth professionally and personally, as we built an alternative family of friends.
Portland is a booming city, one that now changes dramatically in a matter of months. I am partially to blame for this economic growth, since I was part of the eager herd that migrated here from somewhere else.
Seems like you blink, and suddenly a high-rise apartment building soars into the sky. Rents have been out of control for everyone. Businesses are ousted or bulldozed to make room for the shiny and new.
I sometimes ask: Where is the Portland I fell in love with?
I could always depend on an exceptional pint downstairs at Lompoc when I needed to remember. I never imagined the day would come when I would have to say goodbye to the piece of authentic Portland I was clinging onto.
When I found out the news, I tried to keep it together. Naturally, I ended up bawling into a paper napkin at the bar.
I suppose it’s time to start making new memories in the establishment that takes over the space. I hope that we can retain some of the wonderful qualities we created together over the years, but obviously many things will never be the same.
This is the end of an era.
This is where we ordered cheesy spuds and a Pamplemousse IPA more times than I can count. This is where we started and ended our week.
This is where we talked about nothing and everything with great friends and strangers. This is where we shed our workday and became ourselves again.
This was our Cheers.
Lompoc, you are an iconic OG Portland establishment—you will always be loved and missed by your friends in Northwest. Thank you…cheers.
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name
21 thoughts on “The End of Lompoc on 23rd: Where Everybody Knows Your Name”
A profound and poignant retrospective of a place and time that will always be embedded in your memory. You are fortunate to have experienced the camaraderie of a compassionate community.
Thanks, Clanmother! It’s been a rough couple of weeks, from the time we found out the news to the time we said goodbye. We’ve made a pact with the other regulars to come to the new joint, so we can make more awesome memories together.
Changes. Some nice, some not.
Exactly. We’ve gone through so many changes over the past few years in Portland. Losing our neighborhood pub wasn’t something we were prepared for.
Aw, that’s sad. I was quite moved there at the end, so you definitely wrote this piece from the heart. I’m so sorry you’ll be without a spot.
I cried all over my laptop while writing this one, Joey! Never cried over a pub in my life, but this was a tough change.
One of my friends said it best on closing night: Normally, you move away from the pub…the pub doesn’t move away from you. Anyway, we’ll do our best to make new awesome memories in the new establishment.
All the beautiful photos really bring your written words to life! I hope you and your fellow elbow tippers find a way to continue “the camaraderie of a compassionate community.”
Thanks, MJ! I went back almost five years to find some photos from the archives. Although I found that I never took many photos there. We always hung out in the moment. Anyway, we said our goodbye officially on Wednesday. Onward we go! xo
Looks like a great place. And, dang, look at all the beers on tap!
Oh, hey you! Lompoc is a great place indeed. Those taps are all of their own beers brewed minutes away from here. Sigh. Obviously, we are spoiled with more of these options here in Portland, but this is a pretty substantial loss for our neighborhood.
Well, do tipple a glass for me, won’t you?
Looks like you have some great memories of this place, Britt. Sad it’s closing, but hopefully you will find another place and start new memories. xox
We said our farewell officially on Wednesday evening. It was packed and we got to see all of our friends / regulars. Crazy how many of us met there. Anyway, it was a proper sendoff. Onward we go! xo
I never had such a place to go to with friends. Maybe because I don’t drink beer 😉. But I understand the need to meet up somewhere and spend good times, sad times or just have that place to celebrate moments. I truly hope the newcomers will know how to sprout a new vibe and make you feel as welcome there as you did when Lomboc was your nest. And I wish you all a wonderful new start!
True…they do have other things besides beer. But, I think the pub atmosphere is pretty darn beer-centric…so that makes sense!
I hope the new place is good too! We’ve already made a pact with the other regulars to still come and make the vibe great again. The people are what really make a place!
There you go! Awesome plan! 😉
That’s a great tribute Britt, and some fab pics that capture the spirit of the place.
Of course the UK/Ireland has a great pub tradition. They were a great source of companionship, more than anything else. Those days are drawing to a close. Social habits are changing. There are far fewer genuine ‘locals’ than there once were. Drink/driving, the smoking ban etc. Still I look forward to a weekly beer and a chat with friends at one of the few genuine ‘proper’ pubs we have here in Jersey.
Thanks, Roy! Mr. H and I have been talking about the shift of social habits and how that is changing pub culture…perhaps forever
I hope to see pubs stick around, personally. Like you said, it’s more about the companionship than the booze.
They’ve been cleaning out and remodeling Lompoc downstairs to make way for the new establishment. We’ll see if we can resuscitate the vibe and tradition we had before with other regulars in the new spot.
It looks like such a fun place with so many memories. I’ve been looking for a Cheers type place around here for forever but haven’t found it yet. If I lived above a pub like that, I don’t think I’d ever go home. I hope the new place will be just as fun! Love and hugs!
We were lucky to have experienced Lompoc Tavern all these years. I wish we could have had a beer there together, doll! Such a fun place.
Still skeptical about the new joint—we’ve been a couple of times already and it’s not the same. Oh, well. End of an era indeed!
We’ll have to find another one to meet at someday!