'Newest old bar in Clackamas County' reopens in Oregon City
Luke Forvilly's Thirsty Duck Saloon on Main Street in Oregon City is aiming for an "unpretentious, friendly, cozy neighborhood bar with a classic-vintage feel."
Forvilly, 34, maintains a rotating selection of local craft beers and a drink called "Duck Juice," composed of a proprietary blend of fruit juice and booze ($5 a double shot).
Forvilly purchased the 505 Tavern from Mike Berman in late April and rechristened it the Thirsty Duck on May 19 after a few weeks of extensive remodeling. Forvilly has replaced the kitchen, which is slightly larger than a queen-size bed, with energy-efficient equipment. The small kitchen means a short menu, and the speciality is a $9 half-pound Tillamook cheeseburger on an onion-brioche bun ($7.75 on Fridays).
Thirsty Duck boasts a proud history as the last bar left on the block now that The Wheel has become a coffee/gift shop. The approximately 100-year-old building's landlord, Dick Wiitanen, was one of the bar's original owners in the 1970s. Now housing the "newest old bar in Clackamas County," the building at 505 Main St. has housed a neighborhood market, a pool hall, a dentist and a cigar shop.
More recently, the bar there under various names has included a short-lived stint as the Brass Rail, due to the rail that's still under the 1960s-era bar. Because a biker bar elsewhere in the area attracted the "wrong crowd" to Oregon City, Wiitanen changed its name to the 505, according to Forvilly. Black-and-white photographs of the original businesses can be seen on the walls of the Thirsty Duck, along with helmets donated by some of the bar's patrons who worked at the Blue Heron Paper Co. mill.
"Given how much the street has changed in the last seven years, it'll be exciting to see how much it changes in the next seven," Forvilly said.
When you walk into the Thirsty Duck, you'll be greeted (barked at) by Forvilly's Yorkshire terriers, Leo and Alabama, who he refers to as his "bosses." The "bosses" reportedly like how Forvilly repainted the entire bar and refinished its original floors. For art, the "bosses" favor framed Pacific Northwest and Western art prints that Forvilly collected during his travels to Reno, New Orleans and Las Vegas.
"I hope over the years to collect more so I can bring some of my favorites back home, where the walls are empty currently," Forvilly said. "In exchange for giving me a painting or a print to hang here, people can get a free drink."
Surviving on the wall from the 505 Tavern days is an elk-head trophy named Bill.
"Mike said some guy named Bill dropped it here for safekeeping and would pick it up again in two years," Forvilly said. "But that was five years ago, and if this Bill guy comes back, I'm going to pretend I don't know what he's talking about."
Forvilly, now an Oregon City resident, grew up in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where his family managed a small beach resort for 43 years. The resort had two small bars, including a thatched palapa bar that Forvilly built on the beach, but his family lost everything when the U.S. Forest Service decided to lease the property to a large corporation instead.
Forvilly, who jokes he "got his Ph.D. in hot air from my dad," received a journalism degree from the University of Nevada and taught English at the Lake Tahoe Community College after getting his master's degree. He ran a bar/restaurant brokerage business in the Portland area before settling on his spot in OC.