Jeff Hawes, co-owner of The Brew Shop and Platypus Pub in Bend, got involved with eclipse planning 1½ months ago, he said Tuesday.
“I’m assuming it’s going to be a huge event,” he said. “We’re putting on a beer garden. This will be our first go-round at it.”
Hawes holds one of 33 temporary event licenses issued by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to provide or serve alcoholic beverages to more than 20 events in Central Oregon pegged for the total solar eclipse Monday. All along the path of totality, five- to seven-day events are planned, from Madras to Fossil to Mitchell to John Day and beyond.
Brewers, brewpubs, vintners, distillers and tavern owners are stocking up, adding staff and prepping the sites where thousands are expected this weekend for eclipse revelry.
“This is the first time I’ve seen so many separate events with their own licenses attributed to one event,” said Laura Shepard, OLCC regional manager in Bend.
From Big Summit Prairie, where tens of thousands are expected, to the Horseshoe Saloon in Prineville, where an adjacent lot is being fenced in, spruced up and furnished for several hundred over the same weekend, organizers are laying in cases of beer, wine and liquor to satisfy thirsty eclipse celebrators.
Hawes, a relatively small supplier, is trucking about 15 kegs of about 15 gallons each to the 2017 Solar Celebration at NW Fir Lane and NW Columbia Drive, north of the Madras Airport. The Platypus beer garden expects to serve a crowd of 500 plus, according to the OLCC. Hawes said he’s bringing “a fair amount” of Coors Light and, because it’s summer, some locally made light lagers and ales.
His one trepidation: making a beer run in the event he goes dry. “We may be way short,” Hawes said.
The Horseshoe Saloon, 410 N Main St., Prineville, is setting up an outdoor tavern in a lot adjacent to the bar, hiring extra security and preparing to serve a lot of extra breakfasts, said Brooke Dunham, a bartender.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had that kind of event in Prineville, ever,” she said. “We’ve double ordered just about everything.”
New Basin Distilling Co., which recently opened on U.S. Highway 26 near the Madras Airport, is gearing up for its own event and is also a supplier for Solar Town, an event 5 miles north of Madras. The city is drawing thousands of visitors because it lies on the path of eclipse totality and enjoys relatively clear, predictable weather. Staging the events are a challenge for a new company, said Gregory Williams, the distillery manager.
“We’re excited,” he said recently. “We’re a little bit tentative and hope we plan accordingly and we believe we’ve done a good job. We’re excited at the chance to showcase the distillery and Madras as a whole.”
New Basin rebranded a batch of its New Basin Strong whiskey as Solar Eclipse, a 10½-year-old, 97-proof Kentucky whiskey brought to Madras and aged in casks. The distillery has about 100 cases ready to go, Williams said.
“Hopefully, we’ll sell out,” he said.
Cracking down on alcohol-related offenses will fall to local law enforcement and to the license holders themselves, the OLCC’s Shepard said. Local police and sheriff’s agencies signed off on the temporary license applications so they know who’s doing what, and suppliers risk their licenses for violating state liquor laws, she said.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said a few extra Oregon State Police troopers will be on hand and the Oregon National Guard will be in Madras to help with traffic, but that’s about it in terms of backup.
“One of our concerns is we’re really not getting any help from anywhere,” he said Wednesday. “We’re gonna be very reactionary.”
On the plus side, many eclipse event organizers have hired private security to keep the peace, Adkins said. For the sheriff’s department, drunken and aggressive drivers will be a priority, and anyone posing a danger to themselves or others, generally.
The county jail has about 30 vacancies, enough to accommodate the weekend arrests, Adkins said. “We’re pretty set here in Jefferson County,” he said.
Normally, the OLCC would send inspectors to ensure compliance at temporary events, but this time around, it’s overwhelmed. Just six agents work in the offices in Bend and Pendleton; the many events are spread across rural counties, and state authorities expect highway congestion in the eclipse zone. All that adds up to an impossible task for the OLCC alone, Shepard said.
License holders are expected to police underage drinking, refrain from serving intoxicated patrons and keep to the pour limit for individual drinks, Shepard said. For example, Oregon Beverage Services, a Salem firm with a license to provide alcoholic beverage at Solar Town and at Oregon SolarFest, both in Madras, is a reputable firm with experience at large events and complying with state liquor laws, she said. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
Pete Buffington, co-owner of Abiqua Wind Vineyard, east of Salem, has a serving station for five days at Oregon Eclipse 2017, at Big Summit Prairie in Crook County. As many as 30,000 are expected there. Buffington, an experienced festival vendor, ran the numbers. If 25 percent of all the wine drinkers at the event bought Abiqua wine, he will need at least 60 cases.
“I’m taking 80 plus over there and 42 in reserve,” he said.
A single 5-ounce pour of white will sell for $8 and $10 for pinot noir. Forty percent of that goes to expenses, transaction fees, the event organizer and a charity. The event should prove “extremely lucrative,” Buffington said.
If he needs to restock during the event, he’ll do so at night.
“Sleep is highly overrated,” Buffington said. “And you know I’ve been in there three different ways, from Paulina, from Ochoco Summit and another trail from Mitchell. Part of it is an escape route. There will be a lot of woods savvy people in the middle of nowhere, so you want to be able to beat a hasty retreat.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org