Douchebags Not Allowed

Southwest Ankeny street says yes to cool and no to cars.

Dustin Knox's bar on Southwest Ankeny Street has seven rules posted at the door.

Find a seat or leave. No hitting on strangers. No fights. No drunks served. One at a time in the bathroom. Don't yell. And lastly, "no name dropping, star fucking or excessive whining."

Call his seven rules a tribute to the recent past when, Knox recalls, this neighborhood was a place to enjoy a low-key night—not get trashed at the meat markets that now dominate Old Town.

"There's not a lot of places left that aren't overwhelmed with douchebaggery," Knox laments.

You've seen them waiting in line outside Dixie Tavern, brawling outside Dirty and puking at Barracuda: punch-throwing, Axe body-spraying dudes from Beaverton and their Grey Goose-guzzling girlfriends who can't walk in heels.

But Knox struck a blow against overinflated egos and suburban trash culture with Central, the bar he opened last year next to Dan & Louis Oyster Bar.

View Ankeny Alley in a larger map

Last November, The Oregonian ran a front-page story about the fact that Central has no sign. But more than being what the daily dubbed a "secret bar," Central is ground zero in a fight to liberate this part of downtown from the weekend warriors.

"They see downtown as a place to go and raise hell," Knox says. "I'm completely sure that I want to alienate a certain culture of behavior."

John Papaioannou, co-owner of Berbati's, says he's on Knox's side in this battle over the mix of downtown night life.

Across the street from Central, Papaioannou owns the former music club Berbati's Pan. Inside, now, is a construction zone Papaioannou aims to reopen in June as Ted's—a downsized venue for cabaret and burlesque, named after Papaioannou's recently deceased brother and business partner.

Berbati's Pan was a pioneer venue when it opened in 1994. It closed on New Year's Eve this year due to competition from new clubs on the east side, Papaioannou says.

When Ted's opens on the corner of Southwest 3rd Avenue, along with a newly expanded Voodoo Doughnut next door, Papaioannou hopes it will help revitalize the street where he's been doing business for 24 years. (The Papaioannous opened Berbati's bar on the other side of the block, at Southwest 2nd Avenue and Ankeny Street, in 1987.)

"Dustin and I are on the same page," Papaioannou says. "We could create a lot of traffic."

But first, Papaioannou says, they need the city to get out of their way.

The narrow block lined with brick (and also home to the venerable bar Valentine's) offers more Old Town charm than most stretches of the city center. Knox and Papaioannou want the option of setting up tables to serve their respective specialties—crêpes and gyros.

But the sidewalks are too narrow. 

So long as the city continues allowing auto traffic, the car-free promenade Knox and Papaioannou picture is just a dream.

"We have been fighting to close this alley for 20 years," Papaioannou says. "Why won't the city do it?"

Papaioannou suspects revenue from on-street parking is the answer. But Kevin Brake, senior project manager for the Portland Development Commission, says there was no money to redesign Ankeny when the city recently redeveloped the area around Saturday Market.

"It's been discussed on and off for quite a while," Brake says of making Ankeny foot traffic only. "It is not closed as an opportunity, but the business owners need to take the lead."

Brake suggests they begin by contacting the city transportation bureau. Papaioannou says he may do so. He pictures a European-style block with lighting strung overhead and the paving ripped out to expose the original cobblestones.

Knox says he'll continue fighting the douchebags his own way at Central.

"I could make twice as much money if I changed my business plan, but I'm more interested in bringing change and culture," Knox says. "I really want to take back the alley.” 

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