What Do Foster Bars Mean to You?

In a recent posting, we speculated on where the World Famous Cannabis Cafe intended to open on Foster. While the posting was mostly filler, it did lead to an interesting, albeit brief, conversation on Facebook. The few comments in response to the post weighed in on the merits of dispensaries (and the number of them on Foster) and their relation to the overall character of the neighborhood. Some were ok with it, some weren’t; some had greater appreciation for the less-polished version of our neighborhood than what some hope it to be. All natural responses, all valid.

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Vibrant night life in front of Bar Carlo

Somehow, though, the conversation devolved with one commenter lambasting the bars on Foster, as well as making bold generalizations about their patrons. To quote them:     “…Screw the dive bars and their alcoholic meth head patrons. May they someday grow up…”
Though we disagree with their assessments, we also felt it was food for thought. After all, Foster does have a lot of bars. A lot. And not all are created equal.

So we started thinking about some of our favorite pastimes. And then we realized our pastimes aren’t necessarily yours. (Just kiddiing—we’re not as big ‘a drinkers as we lead on to be. Or maybe we are—you’ll never know.)

In all seriousness, though, the comments led us to an old blog piece we posted more than three years ago (From Boozy to Hip). In that piece, we referenced an article posted by Good Magazine  (There Flows the Neighborhood: Follow the Booze to the Next Big Block) in which they spoke on the value of bars in a neighborhood’s positive trajectory, and how they served as agents of change in a transforming area of Brooklyn. The article suggested the “improving” (read: gentrifying) character of the neighborhood had a lot to do with the amount of people being drawn to the street at night because of its bars, particularly 20- and 30- somethings.

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Live music and art at NWIPA

While many will argue about whether Foster becoming a “scene” is a good thing or not, it’s obvious that without the bars, our stretch of road would not only be long, it would be long, dark and devoid of people at night. And without those people, we wouldn’t have the flirtings of restauranteurs seeking out places on Foster; rumors of the Day Theater showing movies some day; live music venues; and the general sense that something is happening here. In regards to the latter point, something is happening and, in theory, the trickle down effect is game stores, Tango studios, performance space, music venues, record stores, and places to eat. Sure, bars do not plant the seeds of change per se, but the article suggested they create enough of a social scene and energy that it produces a draw of sorts. And that draw, they say, is a net positive for the neighborhood.

On Foster, at this point, our bars may be our best asset—our strongest draw. Again, not all bars are created equal, but there are a certain few that add obvious benefit to the neighborhood: live music, events that attract people to Foster at night, food, a third space for relaxing after a long day or week at work, trivia, karaoke, art openings.

Not all appreciate the bars on Foster, though. And that’s ok. So we thought we’d pose the question to you, the readers: what do the bars on Foster mean to you?

Are they dens of debauchery and evil? Do they enliven Foster and bring value? Too many, not enough, or just right?

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6 Responses to What Do Foster Bars Mean to You?

  1. Tim Connor says:

    I’m glad they’re there, though they aren’t trying hard enough. The Slingshot is the best (one of the best burgers in town, and great beer selection). No music though. The ones that have music don’t seem to understand what it takes to build a music venue (not that anyone in Portland does). Bar Carlo can’t decide if it’s a bar or a restaurant (both the beer and the food were better a couple of years ago); O’Malley’s scares off anybody but oldtime regulars; Starday–well, we’ll see how it shakes out with the new owner.

    As for the dispensaries, that’ll shake out. Right now, every stoner in Portland fancies themselves as an entrepreneur. There isn’t a market large enough to support them all–most of them will fold in six months.

  2. pdxnaturenut says:

    This 40-something is also glad they’re there. I don’t go out at night nearly as often as my inner 20-something would like, but when I do, I like having some interesting and varied choices in my own hood. Some Friday afternoon Hung Ova soup at Da Hui? Delicious! An occasional Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary on a Saturday morning at Red’s? Always… interesting. Weekend afternoons at Bar Maven are nice.

    I’m glad those places are all doing their part to create that buzz and that spark of possibility. I don’t want to see our neighborhood become the next Division street, but a little more life and fewer empty store fronts would be nice.

    And I agree with Tim about the dispensaries. They don’t really bother me anyway. I’d rather have dispensaries where legal medical/recreational substances are sold than vacant properties with tagging and meth deals happening out back.

    • Well said. The variety of bars on Foster offer something for everyone, and they’ve definitely contributed to an unmistakable vibe…one that I dig and would be sad to see disappear.

  3. Lisa says:

    As someone who just spent a year looking for a home and finally settled on Foster-Powell, I can share a few reasons why my heart and brain reconciled this is the neighborhood to bet on, or the home to the greatest social mystery.

    Things are happening. The Portland Mercado, the addition of Foster Blvd to the Lents URA by PDC, and the upcoming road diet are encouraging signs that maybe we can have more daytime businesses. Not to get all Kevin Costner, but there is a certain truth to if you build it, they will come, and if you haven’t been on Foster lately, there are many, many, many places to build. So that’s the bet. You can see the folks who are bourgeoning, Piper Café, Green Noise Records, Velvet Goldmine, Fat Yoga, saying “hey, come on by, let’s make a main street.”

    Then the mystery: for a neighborhood with a dearth of multi-family housing (think rentals), one would assume for mostly families. Though by this logic, we sure aren’t a very family friendly neighborhood, with the plethora of bars and marijuana dispensaries. It isn’t like you can take Junior into NWIPA for a breakfast sandwich and put the ball game on.

    It would be disheartening if Foster homogenized like Alberta, Mississippi, Division, while they are local, every neighborhood doesn’t need a Little Big Burger or a Blue Star Donuts. That said, every neighborhood is better served by a little pride, and you can see that we have it, the recent garden tour, the recent late event at Foster Row and the neighborhood clean up.

  4. Welcome, Lisa.

    You’re right, there is a certain pride in these parts. And it’s infectious.

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