We’re all going to the Bitter End Pub

Who let these guys in?

Who let these guys in?

It is no secret that the 2013 season will be one of change for the Portland Timbers. There’s a new manager, a new system, a ton of new players, a wider pitch, and there are even new kits. These are all things that take a while for a supporter to get used to but are something we all come to terms with eventually. There’s one more big change in store for us and it is one that I frankly have been trying to ignore all offseason. It is one that has only recently popped into my mind as the preseason tournament at Jeld-Wen Field quickly approaches. It is the loss of the Bitter End Pub.

It is one thing to see your team’s leading goal scorer shown the door two seasons in a row, it is another thing to see the pub where an Army germinated close its door. We’ll survive, of course. There are other places to gather, drink, argue, and sing. There are places with better selections of beer, more appealing décor, and functioning toilets if functioning toilets are your sort of thing. The Bitter End Pub was never much about those things anyway. It was simply a place where you could go for a beer before or after a match and come away with someone you stand next to in the North End for the next 10 years.

A place where great minds came to convene.

A place where great minds came to convene.

For those old enough to remember, the Bitter End’s predecessor was called the Storm Cellar. It was a disgusting dive bar before it was trendy to be a disgusting dive bar. It was the type of place where you could walk in at 7am or 7pm and see the very same red faced older dude chain smoking at the bar. It was the type of place – and this actually happened to a friend of mine – where you could be driving down Burnside at 25mph only to have someone stagger out of the bar, smack into your car, flip over the hood, get up and continue on his way without a second look.

When the Bitter End opened it was not entirely different. The toilet functioned sometimes, the floor was a little less vomit stained, and the older dude chain smoking at the bar had to wait until 4pm to do so. It was small – it took a couple of years before the owner knocked out a wall and converted his furniture store next door into the stage/bar/pool room. It didn’t have air conditioning. It smelled of stale cigarettes and fryinator.

Tifo

Tifo

It did have some things going for it, too. It was right across the street from the stadium and it welcomed strange scarf wearing folks carrying pickle buckets. So we met there, at first taking up a table and over time taking over the whole place. In the early days, we would keep an eye on the stadium clock and make sure we left Five Minutes to Kickoff so that we could take our rightful places in the front of 107. At halftime, we would return for a quick pint or three before returning to the stadium for the second half (that readmittance policy didn’t last long). After the match we would sing, “We’re all going to the Bitter End Pub,” in part because we were eager for more pints and in part because it was a huge recruiting tool. If we could get you to come to the pub then Nevets and Lendog and others would give you a Cascadia Rangers business card and get you on their email list and then you were ours.

If we could get you there you also would be treated to post-game revelry that frequently involved a band named the Dolomites whose main attributes were a lead singer dressed as Spider-Man and the burning of various objects in a toilet they placed in front of the band on stage. You would sometimes get a chance to drink with the players and coaches if they were not on the front end of one of those A-league special back-to-back games. On some nights you would end up riding down the middle of Burnside in a shopping cart at 3am (fun!) and on other nights you would end up stupidly challenging the entire Indiana Blast team to a fight while they innocently ate a post-match meal outside the Kingston (not fun!).

The Dolemites

The Dolemites

Who wouldn’t want to be part of the Army after such times?

Our patronage earned us the privilege of being able to store the buckets and flags in the Bitter End’s basement, a place which might still house the pickled bodies of past Storm Cellar patrons. It persuaded the owners to keep the place open all night so that the masses could gather to watch the 2002 World Cup matches kick off at 4am. On some nights people were literally lined up on the sidewalk peeking in through the windows to get a glimpse of one of the small televisions. It didn’t matter that it was a lousy place to watch a soccer match. The televisions were poor and hard to see. The Bitter End was a soccer bar because it was our pub. It was the Timbers Army pub.

It was the place where we would gather once a month during the interminably long offseason to remind each other of our existence and to do things like design the very No Pity scarf that you probably have around your neck today. It was the place to convene when we mourned the loss of friends and a place to convene when we celebrated and a place to listen to Chris Agnello lie through his teeth.

Drawn on a napkin at the pub.

Drawn on a napkin at the pub. October 8, 2002.

This year’s closing is not the first time the pub’s doors have been locked. Back in 2004 (or so), it was closed for a while. We faced the same dilemma we face today. Where to gather before and after matches? Back then we took in a preseason match at the stadium and then did a walk around to check out perspective replacements. The Bullpen won mainly because of its back patio and because it was empty enough to handle the growing ranks of supporters. Good times were had at the Bullpen, too. Players hung with us, we painted the big ass mural, and consumed many a pint. But it was not quite the same and so when the Bitter End opened up again many of us returned, happy to be back home. The home got a little more crowded after that fateful afternoon after the City Council MLS vote and Merritt Paulson’s open tab at the pub ushered in a new era.

Chainsaws encouraged

Chainsaws encouraged

Admittedly, I didn’t spend as much time at the Bitter End the past few seasons as I once did. My pregame ritual of getting shitfaced at the pub has been replaced by cleaning the shit off my son. My affection for the place hasn’t changed, however. It was always reassuring to know that no matter how good or bad life was, I could walk into the pub, see old friends, meet new ones, and be part of the excitement leading up to a match.

Wherever you gather before the upcoming matches, I hope you’ll join me in lifting a glass in honor of the pub. Even if you never went there, you are a beneficiary of its place in our collective history.

26 thoughts on “We’re all going to the Bitter End Pub

  1. Thanks for posting this.

    I went to the Bitter End Pub for the first time last season. I got in there a few hours before the kickoff and ordered a pint. There were two guys in there at the time, sitting at the bar and jotting down lineups on bar napkins. One of those guys introduced himself to me later and told me a lot about the history of the Timbers. His name was Nevets. The other guy (who I didn’t meet) was called Timber Jim.

    Special place there. Glad a got a small taste of it last season.

  2. I think the Chris Agnelllllllllllllllllllo thing was at the BullPen, but otehrwise this is the story I heard (from 2001-2003) and lived (2004 on). Hopefully whenever it reopens it is a welcoming place…

    RIP BE

    • The beauty of Agnello is that he lied more than once and in more than one place. You and Bob are both correct.

    • I remember having a particularly awkward conversation with Agnello during a meet the players nights at the BE. I also remember Mike Randolph being there even though he wasn’t old enough to drink.

  3. One other thing I remembered about the Storm Cellar – beyond the permanent steamed up windows, and paper note on the inside of the door proclaiming ‘NO SLEEPING’

  4. I remember BE from a friendly match that was vs. a Bayern Munich II team. Went to the pub pre-game, had many of pints, shared a game of pool, and joined the TA in the front row…sharing many of laughs, inside jokes, and beers with some good people. I’m glad I got a chance to enjoy my time there while it was around.

  5. *sniff*

    Yes, I will miss the BE. So many memories (or details that I was made aware of later – those count too, right?). It is the only bar I have ever brought my mom to, and the only bar I ever took my shoes (4″ heels) off in because I stayed way too long and just couldn’t leave.

  6. Thank you for posting this. I have many wonderful memories and have made life long friends over pints at the Bitter End. I will certainly miss it this season.

  7. The basement holds some interesting stories. Will miss bartender Tim’s great service. He spots me in line, gives me a look and sets me a Rainer TallBoy. Quality.

  8. I wasn’t a part of these memories as I was a passive and occasional fan until I bought season tickets as a Christmas gift to myself in 2010, but my greatest pre-MLS memories of the Bitter End are when they had a stage in the corner. My band played there quite a few times, there was always a solid (if on the bro-ey side) crowd, and they actually paid you well, which is a rarity for bar bands. I was very disappointed when I emailed a booking request one day and they broke the news they were no longer having live music. It was one of my favorite placed to play.

    Started going there as a Timbers fan in 2011 and got to make new memories and meet a shit-ton of people I now call family. Happy trails, BE.

  9. Sadly all I encountered at the BE was douche bags…I think its time had passed. TA deserve better….better vibe, more welcoming people, no DBags.

  10. Don’t forget that the very first meeting between the then Cascade Rangers and new Timbers General Manager Jim Taylor in 2001 occurred at the Bitter End.

    After bark in the park in 2001 I brought my dog into the bar. Forget he drank a gallon of water over at the park and when you have to go, you have to go so he just decides to water the plant next to the bar. Bartender not happy.

    And do you remember those couches in the “stage area” from the furniture store next door during 2002 World Cup? Since the games were at 11:30 p.m., 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. they would just let us crash on the couches in between matches. Comfy.

    Still remember sitting on a bar stool with Roberto and a case of beer (cause they stopped selling at 2:00 a.m. but didn’t mind us bringing our own as long as we were “discreet”) and staking out our spot for the 2002 US vs Mexico World Cup game. By game time (5:00 a.m.?) we were lit like Christmas trees but had the best view in a very packed house. Work was fun that day.

    Ahhh memories….

  11. My pregame back in 2002 usually was at the New Old Lompoc smashing LSD pints or the Matador, before it got “nice”.

  12. Truly a fitting tribute. I remember some Irish trad band playing (the Buds of May maybe) after the match in the other room, and they were giving a scarf to anyone who could sing the song Molly Malone. Having recently been back to Cork, I sang the Cork City chant version of the song taking the piss out of Dublin people. The band was not amused, but I somehow convinced them to let me sing the actual song and got the scarf which I promptly gave away.
    Also the World Cup final when the doorman got his glasses knocked off by the really drunk dude was pretty epic.

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  14. I remember when we kicked that wino to death back by the lottery games after a match against Calgary. There will never be a place like the Bitter End again.

  15. In all honesty, I don’t remember if the BE had lottery games when Calgary had a team. Regardless, sad to see it go, but excited about Roberto and Nevets buying the place and opening it again later this summer.

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