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Ashland's 'most Ashlandiest spot' celebrates six years

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The Fairy bar, the Shakespeare bar, the Renaissance bar, Ashland’s most Ashlandiest spot — whatever you call it — you know the place. It’s Oberon’s.

This month, the Shakespearean pub is celebrating six years of serving fried turkey legs and eccentric music.

Rogue Valley native Andy Card and his wife, Sachta Bakshi Card, have owned Oberon’s for three years now. He said they wanted to keep the pub’s Shakespearean theme, so they didn’t make many décor changes, but instead decluttered, opened the back area up more and added creek-side seating.

“Oberon’s is for everyone,” Card said. “We are a refuge for the eclectic, and we’re trying to keep the spirit of Ashland alive.”

From the real trees hung with Christmas lights to the beer taps that protrude from old wine barrels and a small, cozy stage that takes half the floor space, Oberon’s is a snug spot that coherently meshes regulars with tourists who wander past its dimly lit windows.

Card said the pub has the largest collection of rare spirits in Southern Oregon.

Card, a rare bottle collector, said he travels around the state at least once a month to pick up rare bottles of liquor. There are anywhere from 200 to 300 bottles in Oberon’s, making the cocktail menu the star of the show.

He said the bar has revamped its spirits and cocktail menus and now offers about 30 specialty cocktails.

“I think we’re the only bar in Southern Oregon that offers a Moscow Mule menu,” Card said. “All of these trends start in cities, and then they make their way to places like Ashland, which is a little big city. We have some 400,000 tourists, and a lot of them are coming from big cities.”

He said he sees a lot of big-city flair coming through the small town, including cocktail trends — his inspiration for the expansive libation menu, offering everything from classic cocktails to luxury cocktails using rare liquors and special ingredients.

“We can make a delicious $8 classic Manhattan, or we can make a $60 Manhattan,” Card said. “We have a lot of bottles you can only find here in Southern Oregon. I’m just trying to curate a very eclectic bottle collection. Our customers want the best.”

Because of Card’s extensive rare bottle collection, he offers private whiskey tastings and will tailor each tasting to work with people on their budgets and preferences.

To register for a private whiskey tasting, see www.oberonsashland.com/whiskey-tasting.

“I think it’s important for people to know that there’s one establishment in Southern Oregon collecting rare bottles,” Card said. “Everything we do here is for the experience — from the ambiance and décor to the interesting, live music we have most nights of the week.”

Since taking ownership of the pub, Card said he has seen a wider demographic in than before.

“Families come in, and on a Friday night you’ll see young people to people in their 60s rocking out, and that’s pretty cool,” Card said. “There’s no age limitation here.”

The pub is open from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Sunday. A daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. includes $1 off beer and wine and specials on cocktails and food.

“Our happy hour is becoming one of the most popular in town,” Card said. “It’s more like a dinner rush.”

An open mic is featured every Monday from 9 p.m. to midnight. Tuesday and Wednesday tends to feature “solo, folky stuff.” Thursday is karaoke night with a local KJ starting at 9 p.m.

Friday and Saturday often feature an opener from 6 to 9 p.m., and then a band starting at 9 p.m.

“Sunday is a toss-up,” Card said. “Sometimes we have killer bands in the summer, and sometimes we don’t. We try to have good, live music seven days a week, but sometimes it’s more like four days.”

Card said the claim to “Ashland’s most Ashlandiest spot” came from Oberon’s customers.

“Our ethos is to have a good time,” Card said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously here.”

It’s common to walk past Oberon’s nestled on the plaza and see people spilling out of its doors on a summer evening.

The door stays open because it gets so hot with so many people packed inside.

That’s part of the reason Card said he doesn’t charge a cover. He said he finds that people traditionally haven’t paid a cover and don’t want to when they can just stand on the sidewalk and listen. When the band does well, attendees will often pay them in tips what they would have paid for a cover. He said he tells this to every new band he books, and it motivates them to put on a great show.

“The local community really supports the arts, and I tell the band, ‘Listen, you need to perform well for them,’ and when they do, they can make a lot of money here,” Card said. “I’ve witnessed people throwing money at the band because they’re having such a good time.”

Card said he’s shocked that there aren’t other Shakespearean-themed restaurants and bars in town considering that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is one of the oldest and largest nonprofit theaters in the country.

Oberon is the king of the fairies in Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” hence the script burned into the bar’s wooden surface and dusted with gold eyeshadow, the purple shear curtains lining the three booths like canopies in the back, and the fairy murals in the bathroom.

“Ashland has evolved for better or worse,” Card said. “I remember when Ashland was really laid back, and it still is, but it was less pretentious, I think. I wanted people to feel like they can come in and be loose and relax and have a good time — that tries to encapsulate what Ashland has always been.”

Card said the restaurant stays involved in the community, such as by allowing OSF actors to host workshops and by donating food and gift cards to fundraising events and community members.

Oberon’s also hosts a variety of community events, such as playing host to a Science Pub Crawl from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 19. Various scientists from the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will perform poetry and songs about issues facing the world these days, such as climate change and sustainable agriculture. The event is one of many around town that night as a part of a pub crawl involving some 300 scientists available to speak to the public about scientific issues.

Card and his wife also opened Masala Bistro and Bar last year, offering traditional Indian street food with a modern twist.

“Masala is for the locals,” Card said. “But Oberon’s is for everyone.”

He said it was important that they didn’t cater strictly to tourists, which is an easy trap to fall into.

“I think some restaurants can get in that trap where you are having a lot of affluent tourism come in, and so you kind of want to provide them with what they’re used to. But there’s something to be said that these tourists are still coming to Ashland, so we should provide them with some Ashland personality,” Card said.

“We heavily support the local music scene and traveling artists,” Card said. “We try to support the community as much as we can.”

For more information about Oberon’s, see www.oberonsashland.com/.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Oberons 6 years on plazaThumbnail
Oberon’s bartender Leah Kolb points Thursday to a top-shelf bottle that costs $100 a pour. Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings