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DailyTidings.com
  • OBERON'S THREE-PENNY TAVERN

    Tip a tankard

    New pub offers fantasy world
  • Passers-by cautiously peek past the rustic front door of Oberon's Three-Penny Tavern on the Ashland Plaza.
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  • Passers-by cautiously peek past the rustic front door of Oberon's Three-Penny Tavern on the Ashland Plaza.
    They peer up at manzanita branches that evoke a fantasy forest and then wonder whether they have wandered onto a set of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
    Nope. It's a bar.
    The newest place to hang out downtown is luring in locals and tourists who enjoy a little theatrics with their brew.
    Here, underneath old rafters and the watchful eye of a make-believe, shield-bearing guard, tavern wenches named Hyacinth, Ivy and Rosemerry dance jigs and dispense ales, wine and meads.
    But they don't take any guff from the crowds who are nonetheless encouraged to roar and be rowdy, in an English Renaissance kind of way.
    Oberon's has been open only a few weeks, so it's too early to tell whether Ashland residents view it as a Disneyland version of Shakespeare's imagination, an inviting environment to play an old-fashioned board game or just another pub within blocks of dozens of other drinking spots.
    Until the kitchen is finished, there are only snacks to eat and everyone has to be 21 years old to enter.
    But still, Dylan Steeves, 25, of Ashland is a supporter.
    Standing next to a burl wood counter last week, Steeves said he has known the owner, Jordan "Oberon" Mackay, for years and even worked with him when Oberon's was a traveling tavern.
    Mackay and his portable crew would set up at the Portland Pirate Festival, Eugene's Faerieworlds Harvest and various Renaissance fairs and Indie music festivals on the West Coast.
    Having a permanent spot downtown, says Steeves, opens the door to more than just fantasy festivalgoers and fans of Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
    "I've seen people from all walks of life in here," he says. "They come to have a good time, embracing the whimsical, cultural experience."
    He has noticed harried and straitlaced people loosen up after 10 minutes of being in the middle of men clanking steins.
    "It's OK to come in and have fun and just be yourself," says Steeves.
    In addition to the regulars, the crew assures strangers that they don't have to know about Narnia or hobbits to feel welcomed.
    Mackay, dressed in a leather vest, boots and a bowler cap, and other costumed staffers stand near the entrance and beckon newcomers inside.
    Mackay gestures toward a plush chaise longue tucked in a niche near a window overlooking the sidewalk.
    The seat, he says, is suitable for Titania, the fairy queen in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
    He then leads first-timers through the pub, past the curving elevated stage covered in tapestry rugs and cushions, and on a planked path that winds through the 100-foot-long building to a room in the back with a creek-side view.
    Here, female patrons squeezed into corsets and men, dapper in vintage striped pants, play the abstract strategy board game "Cathedral" as if they were actors on stage.
    In this world, Mackay feels right at home.
    He has lived in Ashland for five years and spent summers visiting here with his family while he was growing up in the Bay Area.
    In 2009, Mackay attempted to open a similarly themed tavern in Ashland, but ran into financial setbacks. He has found investors to back him this time.
    "There is an unusual amount of theater, art and creativity in this city," he says. "I think this pub reflects Ashland."
    The throwback tavern may instantly seem entertaining to art school students. But even an accountant with a hidden fantasy life of living in the Shire region of Tolkien's fictional Middle-earth "would find support," he says. "Forget your cares here."
    He then spread opened his arms to emphasize his philosophy to the people in the pub: "Step out of your life and be your energetic, goofy, rowdy self."
    Just then, Jerry Hertager, 43, and Tamara York, 39, of Central Point, stopped long enough at the front door to be called inside by the wenches in laced-up weskits and peasant blouses standing behind the bar.
    The couple stepped inside and immediately got into the fairy reverie spirit.
    Within seconds, York was calling out, "Wench, give me a beer!"
    Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or jeastman@dailytidings.com.
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