To the community at the University of Oregon, Steve Prefontaine will always be a great runner. But only a few remember him as a bartender. During his time at UO, Prefontaine spent many nights behind the bar of The Paddock, a South Eugene bar and grill that thrived as a student hotspot through the ‘70s and ‘80s. But in the late 1980s, the beer taps ran dry and the bar and grill closed for three years.
Shaun Gavin, an extra in the 1998 Prefontaine movie “Without Limits,” recalls learning about who Prefontaine, or Pre, was when he wasn’t on the track.
“Pre bartended at the Pad. I know he liked to party with all his friends,” Gavin said.
Pre wasn’t the only student fond of The Paddock.
“The original Pad was kind of a landmark on campus for a while during the ’70s. That’s where all the athletes used to go,” Gavin said. “Gary, the owner, kind of catered to them. He would hire them as bartenders.”
Students filled the dance floor on weekend nights and helped give the Pad its popular reputation.
In 1991, Don and Cheryl McCabe revived The Paddock after its three-year dormancy. They changed the name to the Old Pad to pay homage to the original moniker and legacy of the building. Current owner LaMonte Cherrick took over in 2005. He said his appreciation for the history of the location grew after obtaining the sports bar, and patrons of the original Paddock still come through to “just bring up fond memory after fond memory of the time they spent here.”
Although the inside has been renovated over the last couple of decades, UO and Prefontaine memorabilia that cover the walls make it a welcoming nest for any Ducks fan. Neon signs glowing over the bar give off a classic sport bar vibe, while green booths and tile floors provide a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy the company of friends over food and drink.
The South Eugene sports bar welcomes customers daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., for breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour.
Cherrick enjoys ensuring a good time for multiple generations.
“We are constantly getting new people in here — rediscovering us, or discovering us for the first time. That is always fun to watch, when you see a young person come in for the first time and then you see them start to come in on a regular basis,” he said. “That is probably the most gratifying thing to watch — the people having a good time.”
Cherrick tries to maintain those vibes and said they consistently try not to be “just a bar.” Most days the Old Pad offers deals on food and drinks, including discounted tabs on Miser Monday, Taco Tuesday and several other days posted on their website. During the summer, corn hole tournaments are hosted on the patio.
Several bars, like Taylor’s, Webfoot and Max’s have taken over as student hot spots in the last couple of decades, but Cherrick believes the Old Pad stands apart because of the camaraderie it creates. “It really is your ‘Cheers’ type of bar,” he said.”If you come down here you become a friend of the Paddock.”
Cherrick plans to pass the bar to a new owner one day. For now, he’s content.
“I’m just its custodian for this period of time. Someday I’ll hand it over to somebody else, and hopefully they’ll be a good custodian for its legacy and reputation.”