Despite years of social unrest, ongoing redevelopment that upends neighborhoods, and a painfully long pandemic, there’s at least one joyful trend that has managed to persist in Portland: the themed pub.
We’ve long had a lounge decked out like a circus, a watering hole dedicated to all things Elvis, a book bar that makes you question whether it’s really more public library than public house, and a nightclub for horror-worshipping goths.
Thoroughly fleshing out these concepts takes dedication and a good chunk of change, which makes the recent boomlet of themed bars a delightful surprise. Not only are these businesses opening in an environment that’s not been particularly hospitable to the service industry; they’re going all out developing ambitious motifs that will, if nothing else, put a much-needed smile on your face when you order your next beer.
“A theme can provide comfort in familiarity, a sense of humor and even a slice of community in these isolating times,” says Hanna Seidel, general manager of the soon-to-open Lord of the Rings-inspired Treebeerd’s Taphouse in downtown. “It provides space to nerd out about things that have been bringing joy to people’s lives for years.”
We’ll drink to that.
235 SW 1st Ave., 971-319-6182, ravensmanorexperience.com.
Opened: May 2021
Theme: This sprawling bar inside the historic Henry Failing Building is a mashup of a macabre villa and mad scientist’s laboratory, perfect for goths, ghost hunters and self-professed geeks who count down the days until Halloween.
5029 SE Division St.
Opened: October 2021
Theme: Benbear’s took over this rustic-meets-industrial chic taproom in the Lot after Scout Beers left the food cart pod last year. You’ll find a solid list of brews made by Pacific Northwest brands both established and new as well as numerous paintings of bears on the walls.
The 4th Wall
1445 SE Hawthorne Blvd., the4thwallpdx.com.
Opened: November 2021
Theme: Part coffee shop, part lounge, the 4th Wall was born out of two friends’ appreciation for film—the pair met years ago while working at Seattle’s beloved Cinerama and spent time dreaming up unique movie festival ideas, like “sequels that are better than the original” and “Teen-angstgiving.” Now, they can host their own version of Sundance every single day on the bar’s 150-inch screen.
822 SW 2nd Ave., treebeerdstaphouse.com.
Anticipated opening: End of February
Theme: Named after the oaklike giant that first appeared in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Two Towers, Treebeerd’s pays homage to The Lord of the Rings. The series will be gently alluded to in the design, which includes the use of actual trees and some nods here and there to beards.
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