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Few things establish as much camaraderie as watching a sporting event with your fellow fans while enjoying some (hopefully) celebratory drinks at a sports bar. They've long almost exclusively catered to fans of boxing, football, and other on-the-field sports, while arcades have hosted nerds. The rise of esports has begun to bridge the gap between the two worlds, but traditional sports bars have largely been slow to adapt. For the most part, that's meant thirsty esports fans looking to take in an Overwatch League match or the finals of The International have remained tethered to online services like Twitch for community viewing.
Enter Outrage eSports Bar, the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Nestled in downtown Portland, Outrage offers the sports bar experience to fans that want primo AFK fellowship while taking in major esports competitions.
Outrage, opened in September 2018, is the brainchild of co-owners Justin Green and Jeff Hotes, two service industry veterans and avid gamers. Their collective experience working in bars, bakeries and tech support fueled the bar's unique menu and top of the line net specs, but the catalyst for starting the business was born from personal disappointment.
"Justin and I would frequent bars and we would try to be watching League of Legends during primetime hours but there was nowhere around to be able to go and watch the game. So we would actually just go to the bars that we liked [and] watch the games on our phones," says Hotes. "That was the backbone… we need somewhere to talk, watch and experience esports with likeminded people."
Luckily, no one needs a phone to take in top-tier esports action at Outrage. A wide array of TVs and a screen spanning the length of its rustic brick wall broadcast major esports events of all kinds. The video game fun doesn't end there though. Patrons can take in streams from prominent Twitch channels or break into their own games on any of the available twelve PCs and six console stations at no extra cost.
"We're not going to charge you by the hour for something that you do at home all the time," says Green, adding, "I'd rather just have people be relaxed, like it is their friend's basement." The setup is perfect for anyone looking to squad up after watching some pro-level inspiration or break out one of the many available retro consoles for some nostalgic satisfaction. There are also plenty of tournaments, tabletop events and streamer meet-ups on regular rotation at the bar.
The LAN party recreation is completed with the bars eclectic menu items. While the food consists of the usual mix of pub delicacies, Outrage's gaming-inspired cocktails are the real show stealers. The most popular among these are the delightfully pink D.Va and their own spin on an old fashioned dubbed the "Fog of War," but the creative juices don't end there. The talented corp of bartenders regularly develop new quality drink ideas for menu "patches" that utilize many trends within modern mixology. The drink names, on the other hand, fall to Hotes and his prowess with puns. "It's mostly just looking through in-game items or things that have happened in Twitch that are maybe still relevant," says Hotes.
More important than any nail-biting contest or well balanced mixed drink, Outrage's most valuable offering is a healthy sense of community. Gaming, much like sports, has a predilection to toxicity within its fan base, especially within online communities. The medium is always in conflict with those that propagate harassment, gatekeeping and discrimination within it, but Outrage is doing its part to cultivate a space for gaming enthusiasts that builds healthy relationships centered around their shared love.
"It's been really nice to see the community being fostered and camaraderie. We're all just having fun," says Hotes.
"It's easy to make friends when you have something to talk about such as that you're playing this game. There's always an easy conversation starter. That's something that's true for sports bars too," Green adds. "When the thing you have in common is the theme of the bar, it's very easy to talk about that."
Outrage is definitely carving out their own place within a landscape ripe with barcades and other establishments mixing nerd culture and nightlife. Everything is infused with quality and care, meticulously crafted for an underserved audience of an industry that is still evolving. That same need to change isn't lost on Outrage's owners, and the two have some big plans for the bar's future. "We're having more and more people reaching out for different kinds of events, more serious stuff. We have things that make us unique that you can't get from other venues, so I expect to see more and more people reaching out to us," explains Green.
The esports bar trend is yet to spread through the country, but Outrage is in on the ground floor and setting an example worthy of emulating. It repurposes sports bar ideals for a growing audience while providing a rad experience rife with nostalgia for the weekend-long gaming sessions of our youth. You'd be hard pressed to find a better gaming focused hangout within the region and is a must for any gamer that finds themselves walking Portland's streets when the sun goes down.