Punk Dive The Know is Like a Glorious Middle Finger to New Portland

The Know is WW's #3 Best Bar of 2017

(Sam Gehrke)

The Know was too punk rock to show up to its own interview.

After two weeks of one-sided email tag, owner Ryan Stowe told me to meet him at the bar. When I got there, he'd gone home sick. Savage.

But that's the beauty of the Know. It only gives so much of a fuck.

When the 11-year-old, sticky-floored, no-restroom-doored Northeast Alberta Street punk mecca got word last July that its rent was going up 150 percent, there was no way Stowe was paying.

(Sam Gehrke)

"The yuppies won this round," Stowe told WW last July. "But we'll reopen in a better place, away from 'Division Street Northeast.'"

In October, he found that better place—signing on to reopen the Know in the Hollywood District, where Tony Starlight's and legendary-if-short-lived venue Blackbird had been before. There were holes in the ceiling, and leftover giant red velvet curtains. It was sort of perfect.

In a city where gentrification and rising rents constantly threaten to kill old bars, the bars keep coming back. The Rialto survived two rent hikes and a fire. Tony's Tavern received a stay of execution, and Club 21 moved the bar's entire staff and interior decor to Southeast Powell Boulevard.

Related: In Portland, Dive Bars Never Die

In many ways, Northeast Sandy Boulevard is an even better location for the Know than Alberta Street ever was. Over there, the Know was just a bohemian waystation for an ever-swelling wave of gentrifiers. But on that thin thread between the mansions of Laurelhurst and Alameda, walking down the Green Mile has always felt like a middle finger to New Portland.

Now Sandy Boulevard is the perfect reborn bar crawl: The Know is just a 10-minute walk from recently restored Tonic Lounge, and a six-minute walk from a resurgent Chopsticks, forced to move away from East Burnside Street in 2015.

The Know already looks like it's been on Sandy Boulevard for a decade. In a city obsessed with Kinfolk minimalism, Stowe and company brought all their crap with them in three U-Haul trucks.

"Except this cooler that was too big, so we were like, 'Fuck it,'" says bar manager Jen Hackworth. "And I don't know where our baseball bats are."

The framed N.W.A. painting, the peanut vending machine and The Sopranos pinball machine are all there. A lucky horseshoe hangs over the entrance to the kitchen. A red-beaded curtain hangs in another doorway. The liquor shelf has more punk buttons than Red Light Clothing Exchange. You can barely talk to someone half a foot away because of the driving punk playing unflaggingly on the stereo.

On a Tuesday visit, Soccer Babes was supposed to go on 20 minutes earlier, but was instead moseying around the bar past college girls in bodysuits, downing Rainiers they bought with their drink tickets. Despite the fact the bar opened just a couple months ago, it feels like the coolest house show you've ever been to, except in bar form.

(Sam Gehrke)

And though a bar whose restroom says "EAT SHIT, KYLE" isn't exactly what you'd call domestic, the Know is now becoming a morning-to-night hang where you might actually want to stay and eat the food. You can pick up a crispy chicken sandwich for when you're drunk and hangry, and a $4 bloody mary when you come back on a hung-over morning to retrieve the leather jacket you forgot on the bench by the pinball machines.

"We want to keep supporting the underground, having places to play music and hang out," says Hackworth. "We want  a place for fuckin' weirdos to be. It's a place where it's a little less clean, a little less polished. A place that's less trying to be some shit and a place that just exists."

The Know is at 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-473-8729, theknowpdx.com. 11:30 am-2:30 am daily, Happy Hour 3-7 pm.

Drank: Bar Guide 2017

Welcome to Bar Guide 2017 | Where To Find a Copy of Bar Guide 2017

The 100 Best Bars in Portland | How We Selected Them

Bar of the Year 2017: Bar Casa Vale

2. Century | 3. The Know | 4. Lombard House | 5. The Old Portland

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