Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Peek at Apex

It's not as though we lacked choices for beer bars in Southeast Portland, but the newly opened Apex at 12th and Division has generated a lot of excitement in town. And for good reason: owner Jesse McCann promises 50 taps of craft beer, reasonable prices, hours from 11:30 AM to 2:30 AM every day, meticulously clean tap lines, and tons of bike parking. Whew! Sounds good.

I've been to Apex a couple of times now, and I really like it. It's probably going to be one of my most regular haunts, especially since Los Gorditos taqueria next door makes it a fast, cheap lunch option, and Beermongers is conveniently located right across the street. The beer menu on the bar's website is kept up to date in real time: in fact the menu in the bar is a big-screen TV that shows the website.  What a simple yet brilliant idea. One disappointment is that Apex didn't hit the ground running with honest pints. Some Belgian and European beers will be served in correct glassware with marked volume lines, but the standard pints are just in regular conical pint glasses.  Also, it would be nice if the beer was served a little less cold.

According to Ezra, Apex's atmosphere is inspired by San Francisco stalwarts Toronado and Zeitgeist. You can see the similarities: like Toronado, the focus is entirely on good beer at reasonable prices with no food service but loud music; like Zeitgeist there is a lot more seating outside than in, and you park your bicycle right in the beer garden. However, there are noticeable differences: unlike its SF cousins, there are lots of windows and light inside Apex, and the outside seating is right out on the street, not hidden in the back. Also, the no-smoking policy on the patio makes it quite different from Zeitgeist. Not to be negative, but the "No"s kind of define Apex:
  • No smoking anywhere.
  • No food.
  • No table service.
  • No kids.
  • No dogs.
  • No credit cards.
  • No car parking.
  • No dartboard.
  • No toilets.  Just kidding, there are two: one Men's and one Unisex.
All of those make good sense to me, except I do wish there was a dartboard.  If kids or dogs were allowed, I would sometimes show up with one or the other, but there are also times when you'd like to be away from everyone else's kids and dogs, so I don't count those as negatives.

The place is open now, but the Grand Opening celebration will be May 7th.  Obviously I'm a little late reporting on Apex.  For further reading, check out Ezra's insider's guide to Apex (he's working there), or these eyewitness reports from Angelo, Jason, and Jeff (pedXer).


  1. I suspect the ladies may be less enthusiastic about only getting half a bathroom. Honestly, I can't make sense of that decision at all.

    And, while I sort of understand not wanting to deal with the expense of taking credit cards, that bit of information just made it a lot less likely for me to make it a regular stop.

  2. Kevin: One thing I didn't mention is that if you use the ATM at Apex, they'll give you $2 off your next beer. There's a $3 ATM fee, but if you have a bank that rebates ATM fees, you can let your bank buy you half a beer.

  3. Yeah, I saw that mentioned elsewhere. It seems a bit bizarre that they'd rather give you $2 off for using the ATM than take credit cards. (And, my bank doesn't happen to rebate ATM fees, so I'm still paying a dollar for the privilege, at which point I'm just as likely to cross the street and have a beer at the Beermongers or just call it a night.)

    My feeling is that policies like this seem weird, and people don't like weird. I'm going to predict changes in this area.

  4. Other Kevin,

    My guess at the ATM situation is that it keeps the bar from losing money on people who charge each beer individually on their card instead of running a tab. Each time a card is processed, there is a set of upfront fees in addition to a percentage fee. On purchases in the $4-5 range, the upfront fees are the biggest part of the charge.

    Some bars deal with this problem by requiring a minimum for credit purchase, and while common practice, it is technically a violation of the agreement the merchant signs with VISA/MC. Others deal with it by not accepting cards at all and, if you are lucky, providing an ATM.

    Apex's solution to credit ATM customers $2 is actually pretty genius. By doing it, they are accepting some of the burden of processing the card, but forcing the customer to plan ahead and pull out enough money for the night; much like running a tab.


  5. Technically, Apex is also breaking the merchant agreement, except that they require a $100 minimum purchase to use a credit card. (Says one of the other beer bloggers.)

  6. Ah, nice catch; I didn't notice that.


  7. Ole Ole has the same setup without the rebate. Credit and debit card processing fees for charges under ~$25 are brutal for small businesses; I always feel a bit guilty when I don't have cash on hand when patronizing local establishments.

    kscaldef: Why does every third car have a "Keep Portland Weird" sticker if people don't like weird?

  8. For some reason I think Apex gets some of that ATM fee since they are essentially renting space to the bank. Just speculation...


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