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It looks dilapidated, forlorn from the street and disheveled, almost abandoned from the inside. Tall cans of beer brands formerly brewed in the Pacific Northwest line the bar. Several elderly patrons seem welded to the video poker machines. A sign advertises, "Single Cigarettes 25 cents." Industrial carpet upholsters the walls. It is dark, slightly dank, a touch grimy, and scuffed. There's an apartment above it. Two couples wearing shorts, fanny packs and visors enter, scan, smirk, confer in mumbles, and leave. This is the Bayway Tavern in Nehalem, in service since at least 1914, sandwiched between 101 and the Nehalem River. I like it a lot. So might have the Beatles during their Hamburg/The Cavern Rock and Roll apprenticeship period when I suspect the Bayway appeared exactly like it does today. The Bayway is a strong candidate for the Oregon Coast drinking hole with the most square footage. Weirdly though, almost none of it seems utilized. That goes for the deck (closed because of a hole, repair date unknown) overlooking the river, and the far back room where several card dealer tables, empty wine jugs, boxes, and just plain shit inexplicably gather dust. The locals' custom appears to be--hug the bar and state gaming altars---visitors get the rest of the cavern. I like that a lot too because it means I can drink alone, think, write or grope a date undetected. I can also privately sample the "famous chicken and jo-jos" the bartender claimed people came from "miles out-of-state to try." There's not much distinctive about the Bayway's decor except for the vintage Hamm's moving promos. As for beer, the usual suspects are on tap or chilling in a classic glass-fronted cooler. Really, the Bayway is just a huge, strange, worn tavern on the Nehalem River with as much notion to modernize as the Taliban did. But it must spark fierce loyalty in its regulars and that is always the first criteria a quality tavern must meet. Here's proof: So the story goes, during the big flood of 1996, when downtown Nehalem was inundated, water seeped into the Bayway and surrounded the tavern on all sides. Undaunted, and evidently thirsty, a few regulars braved the torrents and crossed over to the "island." There they pitched in to clean up, and of course, knock a few back. Later, as most of the businesses in downtown Nehalem took advantage of federal grant money to elevate their buildings to avoid future damage, the Bayway declined the opportunity. As the Oregon Coast gentrifies around the clock, this defiance seems very cool indeed. Remember, Harry Truman is a legend only because he stayed and Mt. St Helens incinerated him. He'd have been just another old fart and a sell-out if he'd left.
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