End of an era: New Old Lompoc to close April 28
Published: Saturday, March 10, 2012, 7:07 AM Updated: Sunday, March 11, 2012, 5:26 PM
John Foyston, Special to The Oregonian By John Foyston, Special to The Oregonian
They're getting ready for the Lompocalypse --- a week of parties that ends on April 28 when the historic pub closes and will be razed for something shiny and new. (The other four Lompoc pubs --- Fifth Quadrant, Sidebar, Hedge House and Oaks Bottom are unaffected and will remain open.) The New Old Lompoc was never shiny and new, having opened in the 1990s in a building that was already vintage stock, to put it kindly, and which restaurateurs Goforth and Rice named after the hotel in the classic W.C. Fields movie, "The Bank Dick."
Instead, the NOL was one of the last bits of funkiness on an ever-more-trendy 23rd Avenue, and bless it for that. Lompoc owner Jerry Fechter and his brewers and friends will be at the old brewery today brewing a double IPA called Lompocalypse for the party scheduled for the NOL's last week, and I'll post photos later of the event.
I'll have details of the last week as they're confirmed and a story on the Living cover of The Oregonian as the time draws closer. Meanwhile, here's what I wrote back in 1997 when the New Old Lompoc was the newest thing in town.
IS OLD NEW, OR NEW OLD AT OLD LOMPOC HOUSE?
After a couple of pints of Bourbon Street Bitter, a person could become a tad confused about why the Old Lompoc House came after the New Old Lompoc House, which was named after the original Old Lompoc House.
Which didn't exist, really.
It's simple: the first Old Lompoc House figured prominently in W.C. Fields' 1941 film "The Bank Dick.'' It inspired the name of the New Old Lompoc House, which was restaurateur Pete Goforth's favorite hangout during his college days three decades ago at what was then Portland State College.
"It was a great place,'' Goforth says. "It was one of those taverns in the area that had a line out the door. Our place has a very comparable feel -- if you'd been to the old place, you'd feel right at home.''
Don't be deceived by the Northwest 23rd Avenue address, either -- the Old Lompoc lives up to its inheritance by being old, comfortable and about as glitzy as a well-worn sofa. Which is a close approximation of the gas-lit, tumbledown, legendarily unpretentious New Old Lompoc House, razed 30 years ago during urban renewal.
Only the beer taps would give it away. Instead of Hamms, they dispense Lompoc Golden Ale, Bourbon Street Bitter and Erst Fest. It's the latest enterprise undertaken by Goforth and Rice Restaurants, which operates seven restaurants in the Portland area and -- out in back of the Old Lompoc -- one brewery. ``Brewing is very natural for us to get into,'' Goforth says. ``Somehow, when you're 57, brewing beer seems much more fun than making cocktails.''
Though the company opened the Old Lompoc a couple of years ago, the brewery had to wait while two bars and the kitchen were finished. Given that the old building was not easily adaptable to a brewery, they opted to build a small new structure in the back courtyard of the restaurant.
Since the days of the Old Lompoc are limited -- the property owner will eventually bulldoze the building and build offices on the lot -- the new brewery favors efficiency over showiness. As simply constructed as it is, the new brewery wasn't ready to roll until mid-December, says brewer Jerry Fechter.
"We had things like a plumbing inspector whose previous job was looking at the piping at Henry Weinhard's,'' Fechter says. ``So when he saw the way we did things, he thought a lot of things were wrong.''
Just different, as it turns out -- the brewery consists of two small rooms with a walk-in cooler, so even the seven-barrel fermenter is mounted on wheels to make the most of space.
And a sip of Lompoc beer will convince people that the brewery works fine. Fechter's first brew was Erst (German for first) Fest, which blends five grains plus Hallertau and Cascade hops. He went on to make Bourbon Street Bitter, Lompoc Golden and a delicately flavored apricot wheat ale, all of which display to one degree or another Fechter's penchant for a crisp beer.
"I'm a dry, crisp beer guy,'' he says. "I'm not a fan of huge malty beers. I think things have been moving away from hoppy beers recently, but that's what I like.''
Turns out the boss is happy, too. "I'm ecstatic,'' Goforth says. "As a lifelong Hamms drinker, I like micros for the array of flavors and styles, but as a relatively new microbrew drinker, I still prefer the lighter beers. Our customers love it, too -- they've already run us out of the Golden. Now comes the difficult part, which is making the second batch taste like the first.''
When the brewery gets up to a comfortable 40 barrels per month, it'll supply beer for all the Goforth and Rice restaurants. Even if the Old Lompoc's future is uncertain, the future of brewing at Goforth and Rice is not: Pete Goforth has at least two more locations that'd be perfect for breweries.
But beer and ambience are not the only elements of a good neighborhood tavern: Good burgers are also vital. The Old Lompoc makes several varieties, accompanied by thick, hand-cut fries or a salad. The menu also includes a wide selection of sandwiches, good onion rings, a dozen appetizers, several salads and what was recently voted as Oregon's best clam chowder.
Add in the busy pool table, comfortable, woody interior and the vintage photos and tin signs on the wall, and you've got a blessed respite from trendiness. Goforth likes the Old Lompoc for all those reasons and one more.
"Brewing is great -- I've been running restaurants for 25 years, but out in the brewery is the first time I've been able to use anything I learned while getting a degree in engineering.''