Hotels, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, wineries, live-music venues, movie theaters, personal-care spas—the McMenamins empire was heavily impacted by the pandemic. Extended closures and layoffs affected not just employees but the food suppliers, local musicians, and others who relied on the steady accounts and gigs the Portland-based chain provided. One group that might not have been as affected financially but was certainly disappointed? Those aspiring “Cosmic Tripsters” working on stamping their McMenamins passports to show they’ve checked off certain experiences at all of its locations.
This spring, with more locations open for more services, and at higher capacity, McMenamins announced a new perk for holders of completed passports: access to a Tripster Clubhouse at Ringlers in downtown Portland.
A blank passport costs $35 (up from $25 when the program started in 2013), and a full set of stamps unlocks a series of prizes for the passport holder, from a year’s worth of happy-hour pricing (Sunday–Thursday) to concert tickets to a free night at a hotel—much of which has been hard or impossible to enjoy in the past year. There’s no time limit, so you can complete a passport in a month, a year … or a decade. (A Tripster myself, I understand how frustrating it has been to have to wait for over a year to get some of my stamps, or to show up at a location only to find out that one of the bars is closed. My first passport took a year to complete; my next is taking at least twice that.) McMenamins reports more than 200,000 passports sold since 2013, and at least 20,000 completed.
The Tripster Clubhouse is not so much an actual location as it is an exclusive status. Upon showing either a completed passport or a Cosmic Tripster keychain (a slightly more portable proof of status), the guest will be provided a special Cosmic Tripster menu, including rotating items like delicious, crunchy Thai-Dyed Dragon Tacos (I’m still daydreaming about those), Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese, and Galactic Pizza. Drinks are at happy hour pricing, and beer and cider are brought in special steins. For $2 off tiki cocktails, Tripsters should bring in their own tiki glasses.
The menu also boasts off-menu cocktails, Edgefield Library wines by the bottle, and special or limited whiskeys. Tripsters receive an exclusive Clubhouse stamp for their passports and access to the “Triathalon Club” stamp (play pool, shuffleboard, and pinball, and with each game, you get a stamp; all three stamps reveal a picture).
The Tripster Clubhouse opened April 20; 10 days later, it was forced to take a break when Multnomah County moved to Oregon’s extreme risk category for COVID-19 and Ringlers was temporarily closed, though anyone needing their McMenamins fix could enjoy the outdoor seating or takeout around the corner at the Zeus Café. (Sadly, the Thai-spiced dragon tacos are not available anywhere else.)
Like the rest of McMenamins, the passport program underwent many changes during the pandemic. For a while, at the beginning, the program was completely stalled. It is back up and running … but with a new set of rules.
One of those rules is that a passport holder must now make a purchase in most cases—no more walking in just to get a stamp and then leaving. To-go food and beverages count, and you could also show proof of a $20 minimum purchase from that day to get stamps from multiple locations. There is also one fewer restriction—it is no longer a requirement to find a certain piece of art or a clue at a location in order to get some stamps.
If you’ve been working on a passport or decide starting one would be a good way to mark your own pandemic recovery, make sure to call ahead before you go stamp-collecting. Not every location is open, making it difficult to collect all of the stamps needed to complete each section of a passport. Some stamps are restricted to paying spa customers or hotel guests, and many theaters and pools have not yet reopened.