The New Incarnations of Five of the City’s Iconic Dive Bars

On the verge of barmageddon, these legendary watering holes have resurfaced in new and old forms.

Holman's (Chris Nesseth)

It’s been nearly a decade since WW began trumpeting the sudden disappearance of beloved watering holes throughout the city. Legacy booze halls fell alongside their owner-operators, and downtown oases found themselves squeezed out by overdevelopment and neglect.

Tastes change, of course. The replacements that arrived leaned heavily toward cafes and concept-driven lounges. Boîtes, boîtes everywhere, yet not a place to drink past 10.

And then, on the brink of Barmageddon, a new hope dawned. Over the past several months, five legendary Portland dive bars suddenly resurfaced in new and old forms. It’s not yet closing time for Portland bars. We needed another round.

Suki’s II (formerly Claudia’s Sports Pub)

3006 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 3 pm–midnight Monday–Wednesday, 3 pm–1 am Thursday, 11:30 am–1 am Friday–Saturday, 11 am–1 am Sunday.

Claudia’s served up NFL broadcasts and cheap, awful beer for more than half a century until dissipating into a cloud of poker tourneys and urine-tinged despair. The husk of a once-proud sports bar spent just 10 days empty before Portland State University karaoke dive Suki’s purchased the property as a second outpost.

Judging from a recent stop by the still-transitioning location, Suki’s II has had more luck diverting casual fans to watch games than attracting regulars once the balls have stopped bouncing. Spending so much to replicate and sanitize Claudia’s shambling rec room décor might not have been the wisest path, but as every karaoke-head knows, successful performances depend less upon song choice and vocal talent than comparative context.

Twilight Cafe & Bar (formerly Grand Cafe American Restaurant & Bar)

832 SE Grand Ave., 503-232-3576, 3 pm–12:30 am Wednesday and Sunday, 3 pm–1 am Thursday–Saturday.

Just as generations of Portlanders grew up believing that Claudia’s invented the sports bar, most locals coming of age around the ‘80s and ‘90s shall forever associate boozy singalongs with the Grand Cafe American Restaurant and Bar, which held a local stranglehold on Portland’s burgeoning karaoke culture for a quarter century.

The old cafe now houses Brett Gilhuly’s relocated Twilight Cafe & Bar. After struggling with the limited parking and miserable foot traffic restricting the Twilight’s first setting, Gilhuly is content re-creating the bar’s sensibilities—hypnotic stage backdrop and all—within one of Portland’s last thickets of live music.

Holman’s Bar & Grill (formerly Holman’s)

15 SE 28th Ave., 503-231-1093, 8 am–2:30 am daily.

Beloved for enabling early-onset cirrhosis and offering ginormous omelets served till the wee small hours, Holman’s had already changed hands a time or two since serving as sister franchise to the Hawthorne funeral home. Following an extended COVID hiatus, its Vancouver, Wash., owner appeared eager to close before veteran barchivists Warren Boothby and Marcus Archambeault secured stewardship.

The new owners’ delicate renovations have already left the space better than ever before while preserving the tradition of allowing patrons to spin a repurposed dartboard for a chance at a comped tab. If nothing else, safeguarding Holman’s free-meal wheel and incorporating the semi-truck grille of the dearly departed Northeast dive, Sloan’s, saved the best bits of both.

Sandy Jug (formerly Pirate’s Cove)

7417 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-287-8900. 2 pm–2 am daily.

They say the iconic Sandy Jug began life as a filling station. After staggering through the past few decades as a strip club known for a while as Pirate’s Cove, this incarnation (another preservation effort by the Boothby-Archambeault team) should once again become a signature landmark of the Roseway-without-Roseway-Theater district.

Aside from its shape, most wouldn’t likely recognize the utterly transformed bar. An expansive outdoor patio has been thoroughly sanitized, the menu now celebrates artisanal ‘50s bar snacks, and the interior aesthetic has shifted toward a fiercely curated assemblage of seamily kitsch collectibles.

We implore all those bemoaning Cove’s disappearance to just give the new incarnation a try. This is Portland, after all. Sooner or later, pirates will disrobe.

The Mule (formerly Stanich’s)

4915 NE Fremont St., 971-414-6853. 11 am–11 pm Sunday–Thursday, 11 am–midnight Friday–Saturday.

Ever since Steve Stanich acknowledged the slow death of his parents’ 70-year-old tavern and threw blame squarely upon a best burger crowning from Thrillist in 2017, locals accepted claims that Stanich’s had been praised to death, just as some believed in the burger’s supremacy. Neither was even remotely accurate—WW noted that Stanich’s troubles appeared to crest long before the best-burger claim, following allegations of domestic abuse from his then-wife and restaurant manager.

Given the context, we’d understand if Stanich’s replacement, The Mule, wished to distance itself from the Stanich legacy. (Steve Stanich keeps a small office on the edge of the parking lot.)

The Mule’s storefront has been burnished toward utilitarian efficiency, while inside has been pruned toward a 21st century aesthetic nodding toward divey roots. All things considered, the redesign and mascot-referencing new moniker (honoring the barroom’s 49ers fan tradition) seems a fair compromise between the old bar’s legacy and whatever the new enterprise shall become.

Our recent visit, with flat screens showing a bull-riding tour and music shifting from old country standards to TRL singalongs, bolstered the bartender’s assurances that the space was still finding its own way in terms of vibe. That night, as strains of a boozy “Teenage Dirtbag” warbled for blocks along a deadened Beaumont shopping district, it was a party or, for lack of a better word, fun. Should Stanich have chosen to stay especially late that evening, he must have hated every moment.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.