If former dive bar Club 21 is now an outdoor graffiti museum on Sandy Boulevard, the old owners' new Lay Low Tavern (6015 SE Powell Blvd., 503-774-4645) is like a museum devoted to Club 21. The bar staff, the build-your-own-burger menu and seemingly every piece of beer kitsch have been relocated to Southeast Powell Boulevard after Club 21 was closed in February to become apartments.
Related: Club 21 May Live Again on Powell Boulevard
But the former Coasters Bar & Grill lacks Club 21's distinctive Hansel and Gretel architecture: The boxy bar looks like a wood-paneled, plush-boothed dive in 1970s-era Montana.
In that room, Club 21's vast menagerie of trophies, big-boobed velvet paintings, framed Elvis photos and cast-metal guns advertising beer look startlingly normal—blue-collar, even. If you told us the bar had been decorated this way since 1972, there would be no reason for disbelief. Among the new additions? A giant flag devoted to an Elks Lodge in Lebanon, Ore., that also sort of looks like it's been there for 40 years.
During a recent weekday visit to Lay Low, the customers were almost all staff from other bars run by co-owners Marcus Archambeault and Warren Boothby. Maybe this makes sense, because the people who hung out at Club 21 six years ago probably can't afford to live in the old neighborhood anymore. So Club 21 is coming out to meet them where they are now.
The patio is partly covered, it still has the big ol' hexagonal table, and it's open late despite the visible window of an upstairs tenant, whose curtains flutter lightly. It is an interesting world in which an entire bar exists not as a revival of another bar, but as a quotation of it. As if to punctuate the point, the sign that used to grace the door of the old Matador on West Burnside is given pride of place near the large flat screen. Welcome to the Matador. Welcome to Club 21. Welcome to Lay Low.