There’s no longer a “BikeBar” on North Williams Avenue

Posted by on March 28th, 2019 at 1:16 pm

The walls often displayed bike-related images like these portraits of Williams Avenue commuters by Jim Golden. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Hopworks’ Christian Ettinger pouring pints from the Hopworksfiets (note the bike hub beer taps).


UPDATE, 4/4: Don’t miss reader Ted B’s thoughts after attending the re-launch event. Looks like I might have read a bit too much into this. — Jonathan

Is it yet another sign of cycling’s decline in Portland? Or just a business wanting to freshen-up their image?

Hopworks announced today that its iconic BikeBar on North Williams Avenue will be relaunched as the North Williams Pub and Beergarden.

No matter the reason behind the change, it’s sad to see “BikeBar” go. It was fun to have a place whose entire brand was devoted to bikes.

BikeBar opened in June 2011 amid a flurry of cycling-centric development on what I consider to be the best bike street in Portland. It was Hopworks’ second location (their original spot was also very bike-centric when it opened in 2008, but BikeBar was next-level) and it was an immediate hit with bike lovers throughout the city. Outside there were stationary bikes that generated electricity. Inside was all manner of bike-themed decor; including a collection of glass bottles held to the wall by water bottle cages, an impressive array of bike frames over the bar, and beer taps made out of bike hub shells.

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Having a “BikeBar” of our own always felt pretty special. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Hopworks Urban Brewery was founded by Christian Ettinger, a bike rider and racer who has been very supportive of our community over the years. His company popularized the idea of a “beer bike” by commissioning the Hopworksfiets — a bike with integrated taps that could carry full kegs and became a scene-maker at events throughout Portland. Hopworks’ original location on Southeast Powell Blvd has played host to the BiketoBeerFest and the Handmade Bike & Beer Festival.

I’ve asked Hopworks to share more about their rationale for the name change. I’m also curious if all the bike-themed decor survived the remodel. I’ll update this story if/when I hear back.

The remodeled space between N Failing and Shaver will open to the public on April 2nd with a party to welcome the new name and the release of three new beers.

For now, let us collectively mourn yet another part of Portland’s illustrious bike culture that has disappeared.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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32 Comments
  • Avatar
    Shawn Small March 28, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    While things are definitely changing there are still a lot of great local bike business success stories that got their start in Portland during the recession that have just rolled over their 10 year mark. To highlight a few

    Ruckus Composites
    Portland Design Works
    Sugar Wheel Works
    BikeFlights

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      timolandia March 28, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      And don’t forget businesses that started on the bike and have landed in brick and mortar:
      Courier Coffee
      Trailhead Coffee Roasters
      Taco Pedaler

      (help me out here, folks)

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        Todd Boulanger March 28, 2019 at 5:28 pm

        And small businesses that host bike advocacy meetings and help fund the lifestyle that supports bike advocacy…
        – Niche Wine Bisto (2010] & Angst Gallery Event Space

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    Joe Fortino March 28, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    that RENSHO is so hot in the frame line up.

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    Tony Thayer March 28, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    They updated their menu a little while back and trimmed back their sandwich offerings, including the gear grinder and a few others that would fit in a bottle cage. I ordered the sandiches but never did transport them that way myself because that sounds like a terrible thing to subject a sandwich to. Having items like that on the menu added to the feel of it being of a particular time and place and the new narrowed-down menu has the feel of a generic ‘pub’. Their beer is still great though!

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    bikeninja March 28, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    Bike bar fit the ethos of the area when it first opened , but if they are going to change to a theme to fit the crowd that hangs around in that part of town now I would suggest one of the following: Scenesters Hideaway, Uber Bar, Barbershop Alley, The Left Hook and Phone Fiddlers.

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      Glenn the 2nd March 28, 2019 at 6:49 pm

      I would like to see an Everywhere Else theme. (Because everyone around there is from everywhere else.) Sandwich menu: The Californian (use avocado), The Texan (BBQ of course), The Back Easter (pizza on a bagel), etc.

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    kate March 28, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    what will they do with all those frames??!

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      Stephen Keller March 28, 2019 at 3:41 pm

      Build ’em up, I hope.

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    bikeninja March 28, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    I think the issue is not really with the bike theme. Christian seems to be looking for a concept that will work in this neighborhood. The real problem is a dynamic caused by development and cars. Back when they opened folks could live nearby with affordable rent, and many cycled so they saved money on transportation, so they had funds left in the budget to hit a place like the Bike Bar on a regular basis. When they lined this street with new apartments 3 things happened. The old customers of Bike Bar moved out to Cully or St Johns and the newcomers to the neighborhood spend an excessive portion of their income on new apartment rent . Plus, instead of cycling their brought their car driving habits with them when they moved to town. This sucked up even more of their income so they can’t afford parking in the buildings where they live so they park on the street. They city has been very slow to adopt time limits or meters along Williams so this has drastically cut the parking available for people from out of the area to drive in and park near their favorite restaurant or bar. So its a double whammy, the people who live hear can’t afford to eat or drink out very often, and people from outside the area ( who can afford it) can’t park. This is most likely what caused the move by Tasty and Sons, Ray, and perhaps others soon. I have frequented this area (and Bike Bar) since they opened in 2011 and seen this happen in real time.

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      Redhippie March 28, 2019 at 7:14 pm

      I live a few blocks from there and was a big proponent when it initially opened. I think that the hub has been struggling for awhile. A few years ago, the prices had risen to the point where it was difficult to stop by with the family for dinner or a snack. There were other, better, more affordable options just down the street. I hope they find a new secret sauce to success and wish them well.

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    Eric Porter March 28, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    I liked the place but stopped going there as it was usually overrun with kids. Nearby Vendetta’s patio was/is a way better adults-only scene. Power to HUB though, rebranding as a more family-friendly pub and taking better advantage of the outdoor patio will get them a lot of neighborhood families. I never sought out kid-friendly places back when the BikeBar opened, but now with two kids I’m into places like this!

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    Bobcycle March 28, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    So sad. Where’s a cyclist to go where they can lock their bike up within sight and have a beer? (See unrelated bike Portland article on bike thievery.)

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    Todd Boulanger March 28, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    It would be interesting to see if those stationary bikes will be adopted and have a second life…

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    Beth H March 28, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    It’ll be interesting to see how long the Peloton building keeps its name.

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    laura March 28, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    I think Bikeninja nailed it with the changing neighborhood. Tasty moved to the old Woodsman spot on Division for better rent, and because he felt that he no longer fit in with the Williams neighborhood. Ray was also not making ends meet, but (according to several foodie blogs) that’s more because of the inconsistent quality of the food and issues with the owner. Several old-school brewpubs (McTarnahans, Alameda, Widmer) have closed, and even the breweries are having trouble due to increased competition and changing tastes. But Peloton will live on, since “new money” loves that silly indoor bike trainer.

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    Matt S. March 28, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    I like HUB for the ambiance, but sometimes you don’t want to spend $5-6 on a beer, especially when you want to have a couple. I lived within walking distance to both HUB and Vendetta, we always chose Vendetta — I could get a fancy micro or a Ranier, couldn’t do That at HUB.

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    Jan V March 28, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    Leah at Niche Wine Bar is an incredible supporter of biking in SW WA. We were just there tonight talking about the delay of our Complete Streets project on Columbia…and if you go there, get the cheese/apple/rosemary syrup tart. OMG.

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  • Rivelo
    Rivelo March 29, 2019 at 5:46 am

    Yesterday, I was riding to our shop down Rodney Avenue. When I hit a busy cross street, I waited at the boulevard stop sign for the cars to pass. Sometimes, they’ll stop to let me go ahead.

    A beer delivery truck — not HUB — plastered with lots of oversized graphics of shiny happy (pedaling) people and touting their brand as “bicycle-empowered,” blew by me on my left.

    Before I had a chance to consider the irony, I looked right and saw that a UPS driver had seen me, stopped, and was waiting for me to cross the street. Thanks, UPS!

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    matchupancakes March 29, 2019 at 7:25 am

    Eric Porter
    I liked the place but stopped going there as it was usually overrun with kids. Nearby Vendetta’s patio was/is a way better adults-only scene. Power to HUB though, rebranding as a more family-friendly pub and taking better advantage of the outdoor patio will get them a lot of neighborhood families. I never sought out kid-friendly places back when the BikeBar opened, but now with two kids I’m into places like this!Recommended 4

    And Vendetta has shuffleboard!

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    Pete March 29, 2019 at 8:47 am

    Sounds like something John Taffer would do.

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    Trebor March 29, 2019 at 8:49 am

    A majority of state residents were born outside of Oregon (https://oregoneconomicanalysis.com/2018/01/26/fun-friday-insular-states-vs-cosmopolitan-origin-vs-destination/). That figure is considerably higher in Portland, and is likely a supermajority for the city with the inclusion of first-generation Oregonians. Portland is a place to which people move, and that fact is what gives the city much of its vibrancy.

    Glenn the 2nd
    I would like to see an Everywhere Else theme. (Because everyone around there is from everywhere else.) Sandwich menu: The Californian (use avocado), The Texan (BBQ of course), The Back Easter (pizza on a bagel), etc.Recommended 2

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    Toby Keith March 29, 2019 at 9:10 am

    Hopworks is simply adjusting for a changing demographic. And bikes are not relevant to that new demographic. They don’t seem relevant at all any more in this city really.

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    Middle of the Road Guy March 29, 2019 at 9:23 am

    It’s one of my regular places – I wonder if we’ve ever been there at the same time and spoken!

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    bikeninja March 29, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Maybe the changes are Karma. The fixie riding, beer swilling, artist , hipsters pushed out many of the original residents when they discovered the cheap rents and close proximity of North Portland back in the early and middle 2000’s . Now they have been pushed out by the Toyota driving, rose swilling, crossfitting scenesters. The early adopters make a place cool then get pushed out by the bandwagon crowd. Like the line from the last song on the Eagles “Hotel California” album. “Call some place paradise , kiss it goodbye”.

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    Middle of the Road Guy March 29, 2019 at 10:03 am

    Fixie riders have no place in modern society. Those Luddites can go back to drinking Mead.

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    Adam March 29, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Don’t read too much into it. This is a restaurant. Those tend to pivot every 5-10 years or slide into steady decline.

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    JR March 29, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    According to the person I just spoke to on the phone, they will be retaining the bike frames on display.

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    Don Courtney March 30, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Demographics definitely impacted that neighborhood. And it makes some kind of intuitive sense that yuppie types who move here for these high paying jobs that suddenly appeared don’t bike.

    But I’d be curious to know how much the increase in car density on our small roads and aggressive driving have impacted the bike culture as we still don’t seem to have an expansion of stress free routes that keep the cars out of the picture.

    I don’t have health insurance and so I stopped biking years ago. I’m not sure if I even would anymore even if I did—what I see walking around (thick lines of backed up cars on narrow roads; aggressive turns and lane changes by cars) makes me want to not be in any type of vehicle within city limits any more.

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    Ted Buehler April 2, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    I live three blocks from Hopworks on Williams. I’ve lived here since before they opened in 2011.

    While it calls itself a “biker bar,” I’ve never been drawn to it.

    I’ve made a point of going there 2x/yr just to be supportive, and because I like the ambiance.

    But, the food has always been mediocre compared to the competition (Grain and Gristle, Ecliptic, Amnesia/Stormbreaker, Peoples Pig, Tasty n Sons (RIP).

    And I regularly note how the decor, while “bicycle themed”, didn’t resonate with me, or with the types of people I see rolling by on N Williams. They had frames. Classic, hand built. Sure. That’s fine. And one other element of decor. (I don’t recall what it was).

    What they needed was things like pictures of people on bikes in Portland. In the rain. Rolling in all weather. Paintings. Instead of all fancy lugged frames, they could have had a few well-used Portland commuter frames. And decor on the tables, like vintage Portland bicycle maps covered with polyurethane. And something in the written decor that celebrates the many reasons that Portlanders choose to bicycle to work — save money, get exercise, spare the air, silent protest against oil wars, fun, etc.

    I never met any of the management, nor did I share my suggestions with anyone.

    I’m glad they’re staying open under the same management, they have one of the best bicycle patios in town — tons of parking, alley-location so its quiet, several types of kids play areas.

    Unfortunate that they’re changing the name, but not a big game-changing loss, nor an indicator of negative change, in my opinion.

    I’ll head over to the party tonight to see what the scene is.

    Ted Buehler

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    Ted Buehler April 4, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Jonathan —

    I went to the re-launch on Tuesday night.

    I think your story here is inaccurate, and incorrectly portrays the “biker bar” as no longer existing.
    “There’s no longer a biker bar on North Williams Ave”
    and
    “For now, let us collectively mourn yet another part of Portland’s illustrious bike culture that has disappeared.”

    The biker bar is still just as much of a biker bar as it has ever been, with the exception of a change in name.

    * The ceiling light fixtures are still bike frames
    * classic bike frames still line the overhead area of the bar
    * there’s still the “generate your own electricity” stationary bike in front
    * There’s still lots and lots of off-street bike parking in back, in clear view of patrons on the patio. (This makes it a great place to bring a group, you don’t need to worry about thieves pilfering your lights and accessories if you parked a half block away).
    * I’m not sure about the photos on the wall, didn’t notice.
    * I didn’t notice the beer taps, but they’re probably still bike parts, since nothing else seems to have changed.
    * It’s still *very* family friendly, with a dedicated play area inside, and a substantial playground by the back patio

    I asked the server why the name change, she rattled off a few things, one of which was
    * “people were confused by the name, some thought it was a motorcycle bar, some thought it wasn’t suitable for people who didn’t ride bicycles” and
    * “when we opened Williams was _the_ bicycle highway, now it’s just another street.”

    The first response I’m fine with, and totally agree. And the second one, the numbers of people on bikes has probably gone up, but the number of people driving cars has skyrocketed. So in the game of proportions and “king of the road” feeling she’s correct.

    So, Hopworks on WIlliams still has all the bicycle themes an amenities it used to have, except the name. It’s still a great place to stop on a bike ride.

    But from the tone and language in your article, you have broadcast to the bicycling population of Portland that it’s no longer a “biker bar.” I’m sure that Hopworks wants people to keep stopping there and eating/drinking. And your article’s title and tone indicate that people should take it off their list of places to stop.

    You should go there for a beer or a burger, and write a review as a follow up article. “Biker Bar Still Open For Business, Under a Different Name.”

    Unless we support them, we *can* expect them to go out of business…

    Ted Buehler
    N Williams Neighbor

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 4, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks Ted! Great to hear this. I do think that losing the name is significant. I have a call I still need to make to the owner Mr. Ettinger and will definitely consider a follow-up article.

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