Controversy at Farmer’s Barn Tavern ends in fiery inferno (May 2023)

Portland Fire & Rescue responded to a fire at the former Farmer’s Barn Tavern on the border of the Kenton and Arbor Lodge Neighborhoods just after 7:30pm, on April 19th. The building’s interior was already fully engulfed in flames. 

The property has been abandoned since 2018 when the owner died. Neighbors say problems with homeless squatters had become especially acute over the last year and a half and their calls for help to the city had gone unanswered. Firefighters were called to the site 8 times as previously as reported by Willamette Week.

There were no injuries in the fire. 

Farmer's Barn Tavern Fire
Former employee surveys damage

A Requiem from a former worker

Visiting the site a few days after the blaze was a former worker who declined to give his name. He worked with the previous owner, Pat West, for 7 years and still lives in the neighborhood. 

“I took care of keeping all the coolers full. I’d rotate everything to keep it fresh. When he passed, Pat’s sister didn’t want the place, so it was sold to a developer, I heard.”

“It used to be a popular place in the 70s and 80s they say. I like it because it wasn’t small. I liked the pool room best.” He motioned toward one end of the blackened tangle. “In ‘99 I started shooting pool. Everyone one else got a free drink on their shift but I would get a free game of pool. That’s where I learned to play. The pool room had three tables.” 

He strained to see a pool table but couldn’t find it. He pointed out the bar, kitchen and storage area. “There was a partial basement. “That’s where the transients were. That’s probably where the fire started.”

“At one time I heard this place sold the highest number of kegs in all of Oregon. All those workers from Swan Island would come in here.”

“I came and watched it burn—It hurts to see it.”