Portland Pub Gives Back

For more than three decades, Paddy’s Bar and Grill at 65 S.W. Yamhill has been a Portland institution, serving up traditional Irish fare and atmosphere, and garnering a reputation for its wide range of whiskeys – a whole wall full, in fact.

Now Oregon State University is honoring Paddy’s owner with the “Orange Spotlight” award, which highlights businesses and organizations either operated by OSU alums and faculty or who employ a large number of Oregon State graduates. These businesses demonstrate a dedication to community service, sustainability and innovation.

OSU alum and Portland restaurateur Josh Johnston purchased Paddy’s a year and a half ago, adding it to his growing list of businesses. His first establishment, North 45 (517 N.W. 21st Ave), is an upscale international pub that features an extensive Belgian beer menu and hosts events including Oktoberfest and a Kentucky Derby party. And he’s opening a third pub, Circa 33, on Oct. 1.

But when Johnston isn’t busy launching new businesses, he is focused on giving back to the community.

At OSU, he serves on the alumni board for the rugby team and has helped it raise $40,000 annually for the club. Johnston frequently partners with charitable organizations to hold fundraisers in his pubs, ranging from a big St. Patrick’s Day event for the Children’s Cancer Association to fundraisers for cystic fibrosis, breast cancer and the Freshwater Trust.

“We have a very good public vehicle to use to generate awareness and raise money, and I feel like it’s something we should be doing,” Johnston said.

Johnston wasn’t born into the restaurant business. In fact, as a teen he planned on becoming a forester. He arrived at OSU in 1992 but soon realized his interests lay elsewhere, so he switched gears and majored in communication. What ended up keeping him on campus was the passion he developed for rugby, and the atmosphere of Corvallis. When he graduated in 1997, he hung up his jersey and focused on finding a career.

But although he found his way into mortgage banking, and later high tech sales, being confined into an office wasn’t working.

“I got sick of working in a cubicle,” he said. “My father and grandfather were both self-employed. I knew I wanted to be my own boss.”

Johnston thought back to his summer job as a bartender for an Irish pub while he was attending OSU. He realized that bartending made him a whole lot happier than mortgage banking. So after two-and-a-half years of hard work, he opened North 45 with his friend, Jim Hall. He soon discovered that his communications degree came in handy. “It polished my ability to work with people and negotiate with people, and find ways to solve problems,” he said. “A lot of what I do is sales and marketing, and that’s all heavily focused on communications.”

Johnston’s latest venture, Circa 33, is another exciting challenge. The pub – so named because 1933 was the year Prohibition was repealed, and because the pub is on 33rd Street – is designed to exude casual sophistication.

Meanwhile, Johnston keeps strong ties to Oregon State, and uses a high definition projector at Paddy’s to show all the OSU football televised games.

“This is a great place for OSU supporters to come down and spend some time and be with fellow alumni and watch a game.”

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