Portland’s oldest independent music venue, The Laurelthirst Public House, is raising money to purchase and preserve the 107 year old building it resides in. The Pub opened 30 years ago and has become a bona fide Portland institution and energetic hub for nightly live music.
The four new owners have established a GoFundMe campaign to raise $100,000 by March 31. The historic property sits on the corner of NE Glisan & 30th Ave. and is in danger of being sold and razed for development.
The venue hosts local bands of the country, bluegrass, roots, and Americana persuasion daily. There are sixteen concerts each week including free weekday happy hour sets and all-ages shows on the weekends. The prolific schedule means paying gigs for local musicians, that funnel dollars back into the music community.
Current proprietors Nick Zerr, Brandon Logan, Bart Yanoch and Lewi Longmire are longtime Laurelthirst employees and patrons who purchased the business from the original owners in December 2016. Their GoFundMe page states: “We want nothing more than to ensure the existence of the Laurelthirst for the community of musicians and patrons who have created and supported one of the most magical places in Portland, or across the country, for the foreseeable future.”
The historic building was constructed in 1911 and its first occupant was Seton’s Drug Store (the drug store’s mirrored backsplash is still intact behind the existing bar). It became the Blue Keg, roughly two years after prohibition was repealed. Laurelthirst Public House was born in 1988, when David Lee Williams and Steve Weiland purchased the bar. Many musicians from the original Laurelthirst era are still active.
The Kung Pao Chickens have played Monday nights for eighteen years. Their bassist, Tim Acott, was the first person to play at the pub, and he still plays there weekly. Jackstraw has been there for twenty-two years. Lewi Longmire has performed at the Laurelthirst for twenty years, and booked shows there for the last ten. Essential Freak Folker Michael Hurley plays a monthly Happy Hour there and Baby Gramps has played the first Friday of the month for more than twenty five years.
When the original owners were approached by investors and offered a large cash sum for the business and building, they refused to sell and instead offered the current four owners the opportunity to take over the business with an option to buy the building if done within a specific timeframe.
Laurelthirst is a place where people from all backgrounds and all ages feel welcome. Promoting inclusiveness and community across generations is a fundamental part of the Laurelthirst ethos. As Portland continues to experience rapid growth, the Laurelthirst represents the kind of cultural landmark that has made this city an attractive destination, and subsequently has faced the threat of being pushed out by new development.
More than a music venue, Laurelthirst is an irreplaceable and historic community centre, cultural hub and an important resource that pays testament daily to Portland’s creativity and celebration.
To make a donation, see their fundraising page at gofundme.com/help-save-the-laurelthirst.