City Cast

The Unspoken Rules of Portland Bars

Rachel Monahan
Posted on August 14
red storefront of the B-side bar, with "open" sign,  in Portland, Oregon

The B-Side in the Buckman neighborhood. (Tanya Frantzen)

When do you get in line at a Portland bar? And when do you crowd the bar? City Cast Portland podcast host Claudia Meza talked to local bar owner Tanya Frantzen about that and other unspoken rules. Franzen wrote a related book, “Happy 21st Birthday: A Field Guide for Bar Patrons of All Ages.” She also owns The Basement Pub and the B-Side Tavern and has bartended for nearly 30 years.

How to Become a Regular

Frantzen says it’s not that hard to become a regular. It involves “finding the bar that has the culture that you wanna be a part of, and then just showing up.”

It could be every day. But it may be better for your liver if it’s not. “It doesn't have to be every day — we don't wanna kill you — but often enough to be remembered and join in conversations when you're invited.”

Know if You’re Supposed to Wait in Line

Frantzen says it’s pretty easy to tell if you’re supposed to wait in line. “You look. You walk into the bar and you look. That's how you know.”

But also, she likes to remind people that bartenders are a resource. “There's nobody there: You say, ‘Hey.’ The bartender says, ‘Hey, how's it going? Can I get you something to drink? You could say, ‘Yeah, I'd like this. Is this like a line bar or is this a ‘crowd the bar’ bar, and the bartender will tell you. It's very easy.”

Hero Moves from Bar Patrons

Going to bars and getting drunk can sometimes bring out the worst in patrons. But it’s easy to be a hero, too. Frantzen’s advice: pay a little bit of attention:

  • “We have bus tubs set up. So clear your glassware."
  • “Letting the bartender know when they're out of toilet paper."
  • “Other hero moves: bringing the bartender food. If you work at a restaurant and you're getting off work and going to the bar, bring pizza or whatever your restaurant sells.”
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