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Shenanigans at Shenanigan's

I'm sure there are a lot of bar owners in Southern Oregon who now are scratching their heads, wondering where did all the profits go.

Well, in this day and age the bar game breaks down like this: You either provide a convenient place for bar crawlers to smoke, or you don't.

If you do, then good on you and congratulations on your continued success.

If you don't, then I look forward to talking football with you in the unemployment line in the near future.

Case in point: Shenanigan's Irish Pub, smack in the middle of downtown Medford.

I've been staking out that place out for the last few months, and compared to the other watering holes in the area, Shenanigan's is the model for success, partly due to its fortunate location and the unfortunate meddling by the government into the public's private life.

If you haven't noticed by reading this column for the last (good God) two years, this writer's politics are by and large Libertarian.

All I ask is that the government allow the citizenry to make its own choices as to how it spends its weekends. Anything else is dictatorial and probably Un-American.

Which is why Shenanigan's Irish Pub will outlast every bar in this part of the state. It gives the folk a choice as to how they spend their evening.

The key is the amazing outdoor seating area, which rests between the bar's three locations near the corner of Riverside Avenue and East Main Street.

The business holds a dive-bar-type spot along Riverside Avenue, which rocks metal music and embraces a low-down vibe while advertising its mainstream-friendly sister locations around the corner.

The other two locations, just east of The Office on East Main Street, are described as a martini bar and a dance club.

Apparently, the owner of the Shenanigan's booze complex is a firm believer in author Chris Anderson's theory of "The Long Tail," which argues that the best way to make money in the modern market is to tailor a variety of products to a variety of niche markets that will remain dedicated to your service.

Shenanigan's three bars offer separate options to club drinkers who dig pounding dance music, dive drinkers who gravitate toward familiar faces and tourists who are just in town to have a good time before heading back home to California or, say, Iowa.

However, the owner was smart enough to recognize people of all market demographics tend to coalesce toward a free choice area, so he opened an outdoor space in between these bars that allows smokers to puff away in harmony with social drinkers who enjoy the fresh air and starry sky with their mojito.

My prediction: When the Great Recession finally turns into the Great Depression II, Shenanigan's will be one of the last watering holes standing.

I say this having been a casual observer these past few months. Don't underestimate the power of allowing suicidal smokers the opportunity to kill themselves in peace in an open, socially acceptable setting.

It's hard to believe the outdoor seating area exists in Medford. For one thing, it's startlingly huge. The open-air bar rests in the middle of a sea of umbrella-shaded tables wrapped in padded patio chairs.

It's as close to enjoying a cold beverage on your deck as you can get in this valley.

The thing I admired most about the area is how quiet it is. There's no annoying house music to distract your conversation, which seemed to suit the just-got-off-work-on-a-Wednesday-night demographic rather well.

My travels in the land of Shenanigan's were brief, to say the least, but I can't help but respect the effort put into the business.

I have to admit, I doubted the place when I first learned of it. The cliched drawing of a wasted Irishman plastered on the windows was off-putting to say the least.

However, the planning put into place by the owner — who must not have gotten the memo that commercial real estate is the next economic bubble to bust during the Great Recession — has turned a dark corner of Medford's downtown area into a destination spot that does not look to go away any time soon.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.