Oregon Tavern Age: Incident Report

(In honor of Oregon Governor Kate Brown proclaiming April as Oregon Tavern Age Month, the blog will feature a full week of OTA stories. A new book of these tales is slated for a fall publication in some atypical publishing format.)

I sat on a stool at the far end of the bar in one my favorite OTA joints. I had never sat there before, but some interloper had stored his gear on my beloved corner table, and thus I had to find new lodgings. Change is rarely good in OTA country. I don’t like it at all.

The female bartender came up and took my drink order: a local stout. I looked up at the liquor selections behind her and saw a large white binder resting upright on the shelf. The handwritten spine read: Incident Report.

“What’s that?” I said, pointing at the binder.

She brought over my beer, turned to the shelf, pulled the binder free from some bottles of booze, and set it on the bar. She then put one finger to her lips, said nothing, and moved down the bar.

I opened the Incident Report and perused it in semi-stealth.

It took me all of five minutes of speed reading to realize that I had unearthed the greatest primary source document in the history of OTA: the binder contained reports of unruly customer conduct written by bartenders (in longhand!) after their shifts. Most reports were logged in well after midnight. All were written by by women who knew how to curse and fight and write in the terse, unadorned, vodka-clear declarative prose style straight from the Ernest Hemingway school of writing. It occurred to me that these women were probably the only writers in the state chronicling the Oregon (inebriated) human condition at that ungodly hour and were doing so sober after long hours dealing with drunks and miscreants.

I called the bartender over for the dope on the Incident Report. She whispered: every bar has one. They are required by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission; a server or bartender must write up the incident before she leaves work. There is an online reporting system but she didn’t know how it worked and the bartenders preferred writing in longhand, on official forms or whatever paper happened to be available. No, she hadn’t written one up because she works the daytime shift.

This was beyond belief! I had been documenting OTA country life for over 20 years and never heard of the Incident Report, let alone seen one, let alone read one! How did I possibly not know of their existence? Think of the crazy stories contained within the dozens upon dozens of binders all across OTA country! If I had access to them all, I might win the Nobel Prize for OTA Literature and get free beer for life! But how to gain access?

I quietly asked the bartender if I could borrow the Incident Report for one hour and read it in its entirety.

“Yes, but no names,” she said.

I gathered up the Incident Report nonchalantly under my pea coat and moved to the back table.

There I read:

12:30 am

I heard a crunching sound coming from the bathroom and upon arrival found J outside with the door ripped off two hinges. I asked J what happened and he said he thought he was trapped so he, “charged like a bull.”

1:30 am

M, a regular customer, ran into the bar bleeding from his face.

2:00 am

S came out bitching at me cuz I told them to shut the fuck up. S tried fighting me in the bar and two friends were holding her.

10:30 pm

T threw a glass over the fence of the smoking area. I told him he had to leave. I went to give his mom his tab and she came unglued and called me a bitch and the C word. I told her she was 86’d.

11:30 pm

M headbutted T. T punched him in the face. Words were exchanged. I interjected and M willingly left.

11:00 pm

She got halfway through her bloody mary and fell off her stool. Shortly after, she drove over a wall and into the skate park.

11:00 pm

Another lady came in and I could tell she wasn’t all there.


Caught S from ***** squirting mustard and ketchup over someone’s backside.

12:00 am

We found his medical papers from the hospital. He had been released that day after drinking too much.

10:30 am

Two guys walked in and sat down at the bar. They asked for long islands. I served them. I took a good look at them and realized that they were really dirty and smelled awful (one was wearing a raccoon hat). They told me they were doing laundry across the street.

1:00 am

I told S he had to leave. I saw him run out the front door. He put his bare ass on the window outside and made faces with his ass. Later S’s friend brought in a potted plant telling me it was from S.

1:15 am

At the end of the night, another customer witnessed K throw up next to the bar. He just sat there and didn’t tell, pretended nothing happened. I took away his drink, swiped his card, and told him to clean it up. He acted like he didn’t hear me. I told him again and handed him the broom, dust pan and paper towels.

1:15 am

Tall guy. Last name C. Was in a fight a month ago. It all started when he wrote “bitch” on his credit card slip.

1:00 am

N and another guy got into a confrontation. N threw his beer and it shattered everywhere. They both went down.

6:55 pm

B fainted.

I closed the Incident Report. It was all real, insane and pathetic and tragic, but hardly the whole story of reality in OTA country. I knew the other (better) part. You’ve read about some of that story here.

It was time to go. I went up to the bar and tucked the Incident Report under some towels. The bartender was at the far end. We met in the middle.

“Thanks,” I said, and slipped her a $20. “Check the towels.”

She nodded.

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