Just three and a half years in, the Lombard House has the feel of a community gathering place—not an easy task in famously close-knit St. Johns, where people count their neighborhood roots by the generation. We asked owner Brian Koch what’s made his beer bar such an instant institution. —MS
“Almost every day we have an 85-year-old guy in here, and almost every day we have 21-year-old people in here. We try really hard to make everyone feel welcome. I’ve been trying to put myself in the shoes of my customers.
Half the stuff on the walls is stuff people brought. That picture of Howard, it meant a lot to me—during chemo he could have one beer a month, and he would come in and have his one beer here with his buddies. That Pete Rose [picture], my regulars got for me for our anniversary. Someone brought [a Shut the Box dice game] on opening night, and it just sort of became our thing. When you win you get your photo on the wall.
[For new bar owners], I would just say don’t overdo it with themes and gadgets, and be true to who you are and what you are. Sometimes things are such a niche theme, it can be a little intimidating for new customers.
I’ve tried my best to live up to what I think St. Johns deserves. It has a reputation of maybe not being [the most welcoming], but it’s the most communal place I’ve been in Portland.”