The building’s been bought and the collared shirts have come bearing arms– a new floor plan, more civilized decor, high end wine, visions of prosperity, and the inevitable charcuterie and chambongs.
It had been one of the few places left in the valley where a man of modest means could still afford a low-end domestic beer. Where there was creativity behind the bar, but not the cringey, bohemian kind you find in chic urban cocktail lounges. Just enough unique drinks and creative copy on the menu to please both common man, heirs to generational wealth, dirt squirrels and debutantes.
An institution that would serve anyone, but still, somehow, found a way to slyly spit in the face of the yuppie encroachment that’s been swallowing mountain towns across the west, one-by-one.
On one end of the bar, you’d find a mountain biker stoned out of his gourd, sporting rec specs that made him look like a rasta goldfish, seated next to a ten-gallon hat perched like a gargoyle above a graying walrus mustache. On the other end, weekenders in their early 30s who looked like an REI catalog had vomited on them, enjoying a Hamm’s (...the beer refreshing) alongside raft guides in ripened board shorts and gentiles fresh from bible study.
Baseball coaches, adulterers, open-carry advocates and pronoun police. Stories were swapped and crass jokes were told. Athletes, alpine adventurers and skids who held down jobs just so they could afford to drink. Cops came for coffee, cooks sat to grease their wheels before a shift, and ditch diggers could deviate from rotgut whiskey to enjoy an espresso martini, without judgment or jeers.
All were welcome, and yet somehow it still felt like a secret. It was a crossroads of culture in the community, keeping things simple but still maintaining its own unique flavor and air of character.
The pub couldn’t be conveniently categorized or easily explained. It had become a gathering place held in high regard by residents of the valley in which it sat, but death was at the door.
The new owners can’t be held responsible, nor should they be villified or villainized. Business is business, and a dollar’s a dollar.
But the pub needed to be mourned and memorialized properly, before any knees would bend to pours of prosecco and clean cut, commercial pestilence.
A cover band that put a punk flair on everything came to sing the burial hymns.
Sleep Now in the Fire.
I Wanna Be Your Dog.
It was a raucous elegy; one that exceeded the level of decibels any sane person would consider safe. I was there, sober, to take it all in.
Mountain bikers, moms, dads, dirtbags, Republicans and ranchers. There were Christians and Catholics, sinners and the serpentine, illegals and animals. Parents, pagans, paddlers, shitgibbons and gutter grease too.
They all made the pilgrimage and came to pay their respects in the most appropriate of fashions– by headbangin’ and shoulder checking one another into a stupor.
The event's menu reflected what the bar was at its core: no bullshit.
Cans, bottles, drafts and three part cocktails (the third being ice).
There was an ironlike, sour taste to the air, and heavy metal humidity hung off the rafters.
And most of the patrons were happy. The asshole quotient was kept to a minimum, with only a few stepping out of line and disrespecting the somber procession
The out-of-towner, with a line five-deep at the bar, making offensive requests.
May I have a dirty martini, shaken, with three olives? And make sure it's in a real glass.
A local who sparked a cigarette inside and then found the contents of a Hamm’s can on his head.
Another local, drunk and disoriented, who was playing peepin’ weasel in the kitchen– dick out in the dish sink, emptying his bladder where things are supposed to be sanitized. When he turned the little vermin on me after I tried to stop him, piss splattered off my boot. A fist connected with him, his skull connected with the wall and mop bucket, and his mind disconnected from consciousness.
The boss helped me drag his limp body to the concrete outside, where his ass met the business end of a black boot, and afterwards, many high fives were had back inside.
Those were the exceptions. By and large, the mass of mourners cultivated chaos with respect.
Hunters and homophobes kicked up dirt beside spare-change hippies, the flamboyant and the nonbinary. Dads were front row with their sons, and lip-glossed, Gucci-booters danced in rhythm with the husky and homely.
Jackals of different colors and coats stomped around in lockstep; pallbearers with eyes alive, and collective longing for the pub to breathe just a few more breaths.
Women dressed as 19th-century prostitutes held hands with the barely legal, as shots of Jameson were erased with rapid-fire efficiency, and The Hot Dog Man slang drinks while telling everyone to keep track of their own fucking tabs. Mullets, mustaches, hairy-legged ladies and purple reflective shirts. The collective pulse thumped, a co-owner crowd surfed, locals swapped spit with tourists, and the overindulgent held barf at bay behind whiskey burps.
All of them– drunk and directionless driftwood riding a triumphant and celebratory wave of grief.
The lady bartender and myself shook up cans and showered the crowd in suds, garnering applause and appreciation, as the band’s frontman showcased his nipples and bare chest with pride.
Sweat dripped off man-tits and faded tattoos, blending with beer and seeping into the old wood floor as the band wound down.
But when the amps were unplugged and the last song sung, the dirge didn’t stop.
Cans of Raineer and bottles of Pacifico hit walls, heads and floor. An Irish river dance broke out as a toothless chatterbox cleaned up cans, and more suds rained down upon those who lingered and loitered after closing, resisting a final goodbye– the funeral became baptism too.
Soon, the place will be much more curated, civilized and gentrified. Progress in the high country.
But, is it progress when a pub like this is purged from a place in the process? When institutions that hold weight with the locals are killed, and in turn, the character of a town slowly diminishes?
Just before the doors were locked for good, the boss took a final stand atop the bar– a punk rock, pub prophet, who’d preached his last sermon. His disciples shook up one final round of Hamm’s, cracked open the cans, and together, drenched him in respect and gratitude, his arms spread wide in Christ pose.
And so the pub went out with a bang, countless blunts, canned projectiles, and one last message to the inherited wealth and yuppie hordes on approach: