On March 9, I joined a small group of regulars and beer industry folks gathered to pay their respects on the final night for one of Bend's original beer bars, The Platypus Pub. Open in the basement of the old Nazarene church-turned-fine-dining-restaurant-turned-homebrew shop since 2011, the Platypus Pub was a lived-in, homey basement bar focused on great beer and camaraderie. Once the unofficial meeting place of the Central Oregon Brewers Guild and home to a legendary trivia night that birthed multiple Jeopardy champions, The Platypus Pub will be replaced by a plaza housing a drive-thru Starbucks—conveniently located across the street from an existing drive-thru Dutch Bros.
- Zach Beckwith
- Soon to be a Starbucks, because Dutch Bros. is so far away..
The Platypus Pub opened in the basement of 1203 NE 3rd St. in 2011 when Central Oregon was home to fewer than 10 breweries. The support its owners, Glen Samuel and Jeff Hawes, gave to the next wave of Central Oregon breweries helped grow Bend and greater Deschutes County into the beer destination it is today. My own Central Oregon story began with a PINTS Brewing tasting I had set up at the Platypus before moving here from Portland a few months later. On the last night of business, I spotted Nate and Valarie Doss, owners of Bevel Beer, paying their respects to the bar that had poured their first keg a year earlier.
Beyond the lasting impact the Platypus had on the area's upstart brewers, the adjoining homebrew shop, The Brew Shop, has served as the area's go-to homebrew destination for a decade. Homebrewing has always gone hand in hand with the craft beer movement. Homebrewers are the most passionate and vocal fans brewers have, and the community around homebrewers, such as the Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization, has helped spread that passion to the mainstream. With the loss of The Brew Shop at the end of the month, Central Oregon will be without a homebrew shop to foster that community, begging the question, can Bend really be considered a "beer town" without a homebrew shop?
I've heard a lot of people lamenting the loss of the Platypus in recent weeks while acknowledging that they hadn't visited anytime recently. I think it's fair to say we're all guilty of taking for granted that places that exist as institutions will always be around. The reality is that these "institutions" rely on continued support. As American culture has shifted toward valuing what is new over what is known, we will continue to see places full of history, character and culture be replaced by chains.
Recent news that the downtown Bend landmark M & J Tavern is up for sale and the unknown but potentially fatal damage that COVID-19's "social distancing" will have on the area's independent breweries, bars, and restaurants will only accelerate the trend. What Bend needs is more old buildings, not more drive-thru Starbucks locations. Support local now, before it's too late.