History of the Drift Inn
We've been open for about 4 years now and that's been plenty of time for a lot of changes at the drift. Remodelling, new menus, new people, more booths, a new stage, expanding kitchens, a full bar, more employees, a breakfast menu, and more.
There is also a long, and colorful, history of the Drift before Linda took the reigns and began this transformation. Lester's Drift Inn was a watering hole for locals and the occasional tourist who was more comfortable in a smoky bar than on the beach. Instead of just re-telling all of the stories we've heard, we'd like to give everyone a chance to tell you in their own words.
Do you have a story about Lester's or the new Drift Inn? We'd love to hear it. Send us an e-mail and we'll add it here as sort of a 'verbal' history of the Drift Inn.
Here's one to get you going. This is a short bit about Lester written around the time he closed his bar in 1994:
To what does he owe his good fortune?
"I never smoked, drank or chewed.
I was too busy working!" he says."
Entering Yachats north-bound on Highway 101. You're not likely to notice an unassuming two-story building on your right. And why should you? It doesn't advertise itself; only a sign seaffolding suggest a store. But it is a landmark nonetheless. Officially it is the Drift Inn Tavern. But the sign fell off years ago, and it seemed unnecessary to spend money for new one when everyone knew it as Lester's place.
Lester Blair - "that's Scottish Irish, German and English" as he describes his origins--is 84 years old and has owned the Yachats tavern for 30 years.
He opens at 5:30 p.m. every evening and stays open as long as there are customers sometimes until legal closing time around 2 a.m. He is the sole bartender. He serves only beer and wine and never had interest in owning a "liquor bar" that sells hard liquor. The fare is modest-- Hamms, Blitz, Pabst,Bud, Coors, Rainner, a few micro-brews, red and white wine. The prices are a bargain--$1 for any can or bottle, except microbrews which go for $1.75, and 50 cents for a glass of Blitz.
The ambience is low-key, a bar with stools on three sides, a few tables, a pool table, beer signs on the walls, a bulletin-message board, an ancient cash register, and Lester, a generous, amiable, self-effacing, industrious gentleman.
When he is not in the tavern, Lester is in his apartment above it. He rarely goes anywhere else. He hasbeen to the river across the highway once, but he's never been to the ocean.
Why should he?
"I ve got the best view upstairs," he says.
He owns a red 1974 Mercury Comet and occasionally drives it to Newport for supplies or to visit his only living brother in Long Beach Washington, across the Columbia River from Astoria. Lester says the tread on the tires is like new.
His needs and wants are few. Since he retired from the Alsea Veneer plant he has received Social Security, but he's put it all into money markets. He could retire from the tavern, but there's no place he wants to go and nothing he wants to buy. And he is always busy, fixing a washing machine, painting, reparing something or maintaining his spacious apartment, which he renovated when he bought the tavern.
Lester Blair never became a Texas cowboy, But he is a western legend. A host and his tavern, serving the public - and pleasing himself.