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