The relationship history of UP and it’s favorite bar.
If you go to the Twilight Room, or the T-Room as it is affectionately called, on Lombard Street around 9:30pm on a Tuesday, you’ll barely be able to walk to the door. All the booths, tables, and bar stools are taken and surrounded by people every Tuesday between nine and 11pm. Don’t even bother trying to flag down a bartender to get a drink. Despite the crowd, “Taco Tuesday,” also called “Two-Dollar Tuesday” is still the best time to go; a plate of tacos, beer on tap, and all the well drinks are two dollars each between nine and 11 pm. The main patrons are students from the University of Portland.
Last week, though, was no normal Tuesday; it was spring break. The students that crowd the T-Room were essentially gone. “There won’t be nearly as many students today,” said Christian Roggen, one of the bartenders at the T-Room. He was right; by 9:30pm only a handful of students had wandered in, compared to the dozens that normally pack the bar.
Roggen has been working at the T-Room for about six years and the UP students are some of their most loyal customers. He does not mind the students at all. “It’s just part of the job.”
It’s a good thing he doesn’t mind because the T-Room is about as important to UP as the Pilot house. I remember hearing about the T-Room as a freshman being referred to as “UP’s bar” by the upperclassmen. But, objectively, the T-Room is nothing special. It has a couple of pool tables and decent drinks, but there are many bars with more character even within a few blocks from the Twilight Room.
But the T-Room is not just any bar. It’s “UP’s bar” and has been for a while.
This relationship between UP and the T-Room is not new. College students have walked the 12 minutes from campus to Lombard Street for about four or five decades. Even in summers, Roggen says that alumni frequent the establishment to relive some of their college adventures. Alumni have fond memories of the T-Room and UP’s Reunion Weekend is a busy time for the Twilight Room. Even UP’s Father Pat Hannon wrote an article about the Twilight room for UP’s Portland Magazine.
It’s such a longstanding relationship, so how did it all get started? Was it simply convenience? After all, the T-Room is only a few blocks away. Turns out it was not only a convenience but also a deliberate effort. Gary Boyd, one of the T-Room’s non-UP regulars, says the relationship goes back to one of its original owners, Jim McKenna. “(He) was instrumental in the relationship between UP and the T-Room,” said Boyd. Boyd has been coming between 30 and 40 years and he has always seen University students at the T-Room. “He (McKenna) used to advertise in the year books, and directly to the students,” said Boyd.
The deliberate connection between the school and the bar is a highlight for Boyd. “I like the energy,” said Boyd. It is one of the reasons he’s going to keep coming back. I asked if he would rather drink at home or a different bar since this one gets so busy during happy hour. “Why would you go to a live NBA game when you can see it better at home? The energy. That’s what you get by coming here.”
Not everyone who comes to the Twilight Room is as welcoming to the students though.
Even during spring break, when significantly less student are around, many of the other customers start to wander out as the what’s left of the students wander in. At around 8:50 there were about ten non-student customers scattered by the bar. By 9:30, all of them except for Boyd had left. Even during spring break, most of the people ordering two-dollar drinks are UP students.
I asked another one of the remaining people what he thought of the students. Shane, who preferred not to give his last name, thinks quite a bit differently than Boyd. “I try not to be here (when the students are here),” he said. Shane has been regularly going to T-Room for about seven years. If he goes on Tuesday, he tries to get to T-Room to order after 9:00pm to get discount, but he leave before too many students show up. That night, he quickly drank his two-dollar beer and took his tacos to go. “Seems like they (the students) feel entitled,” he added, “maybe that’s just my opinion.” I told him that it is our spring break, and he seems happy that more students are not going to show up. It gives him a little bit more time to finish his beer.
Despite what anyone else things, the students obviously think they are welcome there. “T-Room just seems like our bar,” said Tamim Almousa, a junior at UP. “Where else are you going to go on a Tuesday night?” he says with a laugh. Almousa, who has been 21 since his freshman year, has also been a regular at T-Room since moving to UP. He also enjoys the “energy” of the bar when it’s packed. This particular Tuesday, Tamim is away for break. “I’ll make it up by going twice next week.”
While the crowd of UP students brings a fun and exciting energy, it’s refreshing to be able to order a drink without having to wait in line. Spring break brings a pause from the normal routine. Still it’s not the same. Every other Tuesday for the rest of the semester is going to be busier, as it should be. Why break tradition now?
Categories: North PDX