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Prineville tavern’s new owners struggle to keep business alive


(Update: Correcting that Suing is owner, Powell manager of Sons of Beer)

The Horseshoe Tavern recently lost its liquor license for the second time, but for the first time under its new ownership. Now, those new owners are struggling to keep the business alive.

“There’s a lot of great memories in this bar, ” said former manager Mandy Ireland. ” Bar years are like dog years, and I’ve been here a long time. “

The Horseshoe Tavern has been a staple of Prineville since July 24, 1941.

You may know it for its breakfast and beers. It may be more well-known for the problems that came with it.

Between 2015 and 2018, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission cited 50 violations under previous ownership. Of those violations, 28 involved violence, others involved serving alcohol to someone who was visibly intoxicated, and two incidents resulted in three deaths in crashes.

“It’s something the commission takes very seriously, because we have a responsibility not only to support business, but also public safety and community livability,” said Matthew Van Sickle with the OLCC.

In January, the OLCC took away the liquor license for what was then called the Horseshoe Saloon.

Then along came Cody Suing and Chris Powell. They are the owner and manager, respectively, of Sons of Beer, another bar in Prineville. They said they were motivated to turn the tavern around. The two took over ownership of the Horseshoe in March.

“From our past experience dealing with people and alcohol, we could make it a better place,” Suing said.

The OLCC issued a 90-day authority to operate. Essentially, it was a restricted trial run to see if Suing and Powell could earn back the tavern’s liquor license.

“During that period of time, they managed to get about 11 violations of that authority to operate,” Van Sickle said. “So that’s basically going against the conditions or restrictions that were set out in their authority to operate.”

Those violations included failing to patrol the outside of the tavern and failing to have an easily identifiable security guard. All of those violations came within the first month of ownership.

“Every time something from the local agency was brought to our attention, we did everything in our power to correct it,” Suing said.

The OLCC did not see it that way. It rescinded the 90-day authority to operate in May, after just two months. That left the tavern without a liquor license once again.

“I really can’t describe the feeling. It’s a punch to the gut, I guess,” Suing said.

The impact to business was devastating, from “150-200 people a day, to five or six,” Suing said.

The first Friday operating without the liquor license, Suing said the tavern brought in just $12.85 during the entire day.

After trying to keep the Horseshoe Tavern open for two weeks, Suing and Powell were forced to shut it down. But they hope the doors won’t be locked for too much longer.

The OLCC said Suing and Powell have a chance to file an appeal before Aug. 6. The pair said they plan on doing so.

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