Drink Locally

May I Drink with Danger?

Let’s hear about the scariest dives in Portland—and elsewhere.

By John Chandler June 19, 2009

As I was hiking down W Burnside Street on my way to work yesterday, I had to pause for a moment at the former entrance to Dugo’s, a seedy little dive that shut its doors more than a year ago. I popped in once in the early part of the century to check the place out after hearing so many tall tales. "If there’s a woman in there, she’s either a prostitute or a crackhead," one of my long-lost drinking buddies said.

"Most likely both," someone else told me. "And the clientele is 100 percent parolees. You better watch your step. And for God’s sake, don’t use the bathroom. You’ll never be seen again."

I must have picked an off-day because it was pretty sleepy when I arrived, just after 5 p.m. A lot of old-timers were sucking on cheap beers, and the bartender was arguing with a bleached-blonde woman who looked like she’d come in for a drink after her weekly electroshock therapy. In other words, it could have been any bar, anywhere, at any time.

I’ve had drinks in some scary joints, mostly in the vicinity of my hometown of Coos Bay (and a few in Kodiak, Alaska). Word to the wise: It’s not a good idea to visit Red’s Tavern in Charleston, Oregon, and ask to see a wine list. (I managed to duck out while the two biker gangs present rumbled over who was going to have the privilege of stomping me.) I once cracked my head on the floor in the men’s room at the Nugget (located in the lobby of the Greyhound station in Coos Bay) after slipping in a pool of blood left over from a tryst between a prostitute and a dissatisfied customer who felt entitled to a refund.

I say this not because I’m trying to firm up my Charles Bukowski drinking credentials (well, maybe a little), but because I want to make a point about the difference between a bar with a nasty reputation and a bar with a well-deserved nasty reputation.

Let’s have some dangerous bar stories, drinking buddies. And if you know of any legitimately scary bars around these parts, please share.

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