Alright, people, here’s the deal: you never dared to go into Bob and Alice’s (though the four of you who did get a high five); you were tempted by the music when it turned into Starday Tavern (but still only precious few of you gave it a chance); now you have a third opportunity with a new owner who has the time, energy and, more importantly, commitment to making this bar work. Third time’s a charm, right? We caught up with local resident, Justin Amrine, who recently bought Starday Tavern with his wife, Shannon. Together, they hope to add another piece to the Foster-bar-scene-puzzle.
1) Everybody’s got a story. Let the people know who Justin is.
I was born and raised in Ohio. Went to college in Alabama. Moved out west to start a new life with my 3 teenagers and my wife of 17 years, Shannon. I’m proud of where I’m from, but Portland is our home. It’s better than any other place we have lived or visited. People are my thing. I love all people, their stories, and all of the details that make them who they are. I’ve tried a few times to get out the service industry, but the draw was just too great! “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” I was born to do this.
2) You and your wife, Shannon, just bought a bar—Starday Tavern—and just like that, you’re thrust into the world of running your own business, promoting it, keeping people happy, etc. That’s got to be a bit overwhelming, yeah?
It is a little bit overwhelming, sure. But the two of us together are a pretty great team. Shannon balances the books and keeps us legal, and I shake all the hands and kiss all the babies. It’s fun for us, honestly. This is something we’ve talked about for a long time and I’ve personally wanted for as long as I can remember. We’ve worked together at several different restaurants and bars in several states. We are a really great team. And while Shannon has had an office job (and still does) for the last 3 years, you shouldn’t underestimate her ability to sling some drinks. She hustles. It’s all she knows. You will find her behind the bar with me on most nights.
3) But you also get to pour drinks, create an atmosphere, and socialize now. And from everything you can tell, you connect well with people and know how to have/make a good time; seems like a natural fit. You must be pretty pumped—what can folks expect to get out of their experience?
For starters, a whole new energy. We are living our dream and we are super stoked about it. We are both really well connected in the service industry, as well as with tons of local musicians and DJ’s. We are going to cover the whole spectrum of music (or as much of it as we can). Metal, punk, jazz fusion, blues, funk, country, dark country, ska, classical, acoustic, and everything in between. There will also be a new dimension at Starday, which will be the addition of some of the best DJ’s in town playing techno, house, glitch hop, future funk, drum and bass, and as many other electronic genres as we can wrangle up. Dance parties at Starday will be a lot of fun!
We are also reaching out to local food vendors to both increase sales and notoriety for them, as well as expand and overhaul our menu. The only current menu item we are keeping are the nachos, but the chili recipe is all new. It will take some “creative cooking” on our part due to our extremely limited kitchen space. But with the help of the local food vendors in FoPo (who have all been very receptive to our vision) we hope to have a little something for everyone. My experience in the kitchen (both professionally and at home) should prove to be a game changer at Starday. Lots of fun food events will also be happening in the near future as we reach out to the folks in the neighborhood and utilize our resources from past experiences and create a whole new vibe on the block.
4) A lot of people may already know you from your days at Gemini (RIP) or Bar Carlo. But you also organize regular kickball games at Kern Park and have kids who romp around the neighborhood. I’d say you have a good feel for the neighborhood—what are the three attributes of Foster that you appreciate most?
Spirit. Family. Grit. This neighborhood is youthful and filled with lots of good energy. It comes in all shapes and sizes. There are tons of young folks and those that are young at heart, overflowing with great ideas and dreams, putting in the work to make them happen. Having a family of our own, we were definitely drawn to the strong sense of community in FoPo. Neighbors and friends looking out for each other and going out of their way to help each other. That’s what’s up! And lastly, FoPo has character. It’s a little rough around the edges, but in a way that makes it stand out in comparison to other neighborhoods in the SE and elsewhere across the city. It’s one of a kind for sure.
5) And if you could change one thing about Foster?
The only thing I would change about Foster is it’s location. And what I mean by that is it’s location in regards to the wave of development, fueled by gentrification, that is headed right for it. We are in the direct path of an unstoppable force, reminiscent of the “Nothing” from the Neverending Story. We live in FoPo, in addition to owning the Starday and it saddens us both a bit to think of what may come to this great neighborhood in the future. Our intention is to let the wave of change wash right over us and continue to provide the wonderful people of FoPo with a holdout establishment that embodies the real spirit of the community. Sort of like Frank and Faye Riley, the stubborn old couple who didn’t cave to the massive commercialization that surrounded them in one of my favorite movies, “Batteries Not Included.”
6) We couldn’t help but notice that folks never really gave Starday a chance when it first replaced Bob and Alice’s a couple years ago. (Unfortunately, they all missed out on some pretty good live music.) Now that you’ve taken it over, what would you say to folks to make sure they don’t sleep on Starday anymore?
Come check it out! We have a vision and some major changes are coming just as soon as we get settled into our new roles. The food menu will be mostly local with support from FoPo establishments. Live music will stay, but the spectrum will be larger and include all the previous genres and DJ styles I listed before AND THEN SOME! We intend to include some fun chill nights too, which will include, but not be limited to Trivia Night, Service Industry Night, Bingo, and Karaoke. The beer and cider selection will be different (already is) and will rotate following seasonal patterns. Many new additions to the spirits selection have already been made and we will continue to grow that as well. Lastly, not to leave out the rabid sports fans in FoPo, we will be adding TV’s next month in our ramp up for football season. We will be opening at 9:00 AM on Saturday and Sunday mornings all through football season to provide a place for folks to catch all the early games from the East Coast feed. In addition to that, we will be offering a limited breakfast menu to feed all of those hungry fans. FoPo needs a “sports capable” bar and they don’t have one right now. I hesitate to call Starday a sports bar because that would be limiting what we are in the minds of some. We aren’t a sports bar. We aren’t a live music venue. We aren’t a foodie destination or a crappy dive bar. We intend on being a little bit of all of those things. We can’t be all things to all people, but our goal is to be a lot of things to a lot of people. It would be silly to pigeon hole ourselves into one niche when we can fulfill the needs of so many and be flexible and open to the wants and demands of this neighborhood. Just come in and check us out! This isn’t your parents Starday anymore…
7) Ok, the obligatory “if Foster was a person or song, who/what would it be…” You can choose a song, movie or famous character (fictional or otherwise) that most closely characterizes the neighborhood.
I’ve thought about this question a lot over the last few days and I think that “Eastbound and Down” by Jerry Reed is a good song for Foster. It’s the embodiment of some good old boys doing some maybe questionable stuff, but doing it for the greater good of the community. Haha. That song makes me think of good times, good people, and an overall sense of happiness. Foster is gritty and nothing says grit like running from the cops at top speed with the T-tops out! We love this neighborhood. We’ve worked hard our whole lives to get to this point. Our dreams are finally starting to be realized and are materializing before our eyes. We don’t have much, but what we do have we will gladly share. Free hugs, free high fives, and all the good times you can handle. That’s what we do. That’s who we are. Welcome to the new “Cheers” of FoPo. It’s gonna be one hell of a ride!!!!
Much thanks to Justin for sharing. We wish him and Shannon (and Genghis) the best of luck—make sure to check them out at Starday. And naturally, keep supporting your Foster businesses.