The Barge Inn to reopen

The Barge Inn sits at its iconic spot on the Newport Bayfront, its familiar gray and red colors replaced by the tan of newly renovated paneling. The historic structure will return to its original color scheme before reopening early February. Manager Mindy Cole stands in front of the Barge Inn’s entrance, though the exterior is mostly bare after being freshly renovated. The sign bearing the tavern’s famous slogan, “Home to Wino’s, Dingbats & Riff Raff,” will hang above the entrance once again before it reopens. (Photos by Mathew Brock)

NEWPORT — The Barge Inn has been looking a little different over the past few weeks as it’s been undergoing renovations, but the new management promises when the historic tavern reopens its doors, it will still be the same “Home to Wino’s, Dingbats & Riff Raff” that its always been.

“It’s still going be the Barge Inn. It will still be the same great burgers and drinks at an affordable price. It’s the same menu with a couple additions, and we’re going to be adding liquor,” said the new owner Janell Goplen, who, with her husband, Hans, also owns Clearwater Restaurant.

The Barge Inn has been an historic landmark on the Newport Bayfront since 1936 and for a time was run by longtime owner Pat Hoover. Mindy Cole will take over as manager and is hoping to bring the same atmosphere the business is known for when it reopens.

“Clearwater is sort of your uptown girl type of place, while the Barge Inn has kinda always been your uncle’s tavern,” Cole said. “They’re definitely two different entities, and the clientele are fishermen, hard workers, who want to come into a place without having to change their clothes and have a good burger and a beer for $10.”

The renovation includes new flooring, siding, windows, awnings and a new to-go window near the parking lot. There will also be some changes to the layout, though the Oregon lottery area will remain mostly unchanged, having been renovated a few years prior.

“The Barge was open for COVID and was approved for limited dining through the guidelines,” Cole said. “The lottery room had been redone a few years ago and it was in pretty good shape, so we won’t be touching that. There are dividers that are adjusted for the COVID, so we probably won’t touch it and just redo the floors in there.”

Partly due to COVID-19 restrictions, the pool tables will be removed in favor of additional seating. When the restaurant reopens, Cole said they may convert part of the parking lot into outdoor dining, but will otherwise keep it the same. The Barge Inn is one of the few businesses on the Newport Bayfront with its own parking area.

“We’ve had a lot of people who have been coming here for years who were worried it might not be coming back the way it was,” Cole said. “The previous manager, Josh, did take a few items and return them to family members, but I’d say about 95 percent of the stuff on the walls is coming back. All the memorabilia, the fishing boat pictures, all that stuff will be back, and we’ll be adding some of our own stuff to keep it local and funny.”

When the outside renovations are done, the tavern will also return to its original colors, charcoal-grey with red trimming, and the signature sign reading “Home to Wino’s, Dingbats & Riff Raff” will return to its place above the entrance.

As for the menu, that will remain mostly the same and will include staples like the signature Barge and Bilge burgers. The drink selection will be expanded to include harder liquors and mixed drinks, instead of just beers. Cole said she expects the increased selection to increase sales around 30 percent when the bar is cleared to open.

“We’ll have the standard bar setup, stuff like Bloody Marys and screwdrivers on the weekends, mimosas, that kind of thing,” Cole said. “We want to go for the old favorites and keep it fun. We want the same type of clients, locals and people who come during the summer, and keep it a classic old tavern. But sometimes people just want a cocktail and folks from the lottery often want cocktails, too.”

Cole and Goplen are both Newport natives who spent time away before returning to the area.

“I’m excited because for me it’s like coming home. I moved away for a few years before moving back, and Hans and Janell reached out to me to come manage this place,” Cole said. “It’s a great place to be.”

The tavern is scheduled to open sometime in the first two weeks of February, pending permits, and will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The restaurant will open immediately, but the bar may be stalled by COVID-19 restrictions. For more information, you can go to www.bargeinntavern.com.

“I always hear when things pick up for spring break, people want to know where the locals go, and this has always been the spot where they’re at,” Cole said.

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