The Alibi Restaurant & Lounge seized the mantle of Portland's ultimate tiki bar when downtown landmark Trader Vic's poured its last Suffering Bastard eight years ago. It's a distinction that Alibi owner Larry White is quite proud of.
'We put an umbrella in every drink possible,' says White, tanned and sporting the requisite Hawaiian party shirt. Woven palm frond wall coverings, tiki torches and murals depicting island life surround the proprietor and create a wonderfully kitsch atmosphere.
Founded in 1947 by Roy Ell, the Alibi retains the original Polynesian vibe that Ell envisioned, with one notable feature that he didn't foresee: a rollicking karaoke lounge where tipsy patrons gather to deliver heartfelt renditions of their favorite songs.
White says that although the urge to reinterpret the classics may have waned elsewhere, it's still going strong here. The Alibi has offered karaoke for the past nine years, and guests can showcase their talents Wednesday through Saturday, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Karaoke jockey Denise Purcell has been the karaoke host at the Alibi for seven years.
Visiting patron Tom Anderson nurses his drink as he considers singing Eric Clapton's 'Layla.' Out on the town with his co-workers, Anderson watches his boss, Joe Orell, do an impressive rendition of the Bob Marley song, 'Jamming.' When he returns to his seat, the dedicated Bob Marley fan reveals that he's got the reggae king's visage tattooed upon his back. Such are the things you learn about people when gathered around drinks and singing together in public.
White and his fellow bartenders prefer to hold court at the bar. Jokes and insults fly as they mix your drink of choice. It's best to adopt a 'when in Hawaii' attitude at the Alibi and indulge in a tropical libation such as a mai tai or pi–a colada.
'We get people from every walk of life,' White says of the friendly patrons. And like rum and pineapple juice, they seem to blend well.