Will Pub Ink become the third strike?

At one time, going out in Medford was akin to attending a gladiator death match at the Colosseum of ancient Rome.

I had just moved to the area to take the Mail Tribune gig when I first walked through the Jagermeister and testosterone-soaked doors of Ground Zero.

Pounding house music. Jager shots. Bros in pink polo shirts with their collars popped stalked bleary-eyed club rats like boozy cheetahs covered in oh-so-1999 tribal tattoos instead of spots.

On one weekend per month, I would join some of my new Tribune friends — all now gone to parts unknown — for some people-watching at Ground Zero.

The club's floor plan was perfect for this activity. The dance floor, aka No Man's Land, was set low beneath a raised level of tables and booths. It was built like the Colosseum.

My friends and I would get a bucket of beers and sit at the tables and stare down into No Man's Land and watch the human drama unfold.

We'd make prop bets on which bros would be the first to incite violence. Because I am cursed with the innate ability to deeply understand the inner workings of the Cro-Magnon Club Bro, I usually won these bets.

At least once a night, some Jagered-up bro would overstep another bro's territory, and a brawl would ensue. Because the music thumped so loud and No Man's Land was so crowded, it took the bouncers a few minutes to realize some of their patrons were attempting to murder each other. Some fights would rage for minutes before someone was alerted.

Bros would hit the floor and yell bro like things at each other. Club rats, wobbly on their heels, would sometimes catch a stray elbow and be sent skidding on their be-thonged arses.

All the while, my table would cheer and shake our fists at the carnage.

"Finish him!" we'd scream, like the frothing, blood-drunk Colosseum throng of yore.

It was great. But only for one night a month. Any more would cause headaches and a general lack of faith in humanity's future.

Ground Zero drew some unwanted, though inevitable, attention from the local constables after a handful of criminal cases slunk through the court system between 2005 through 2007. People went to prison for brutal assaults, one guy was run over by a car in the parking lot, there was at least one shooting and a few stabbings in the parking lot, aka No Man's Land 2.

And then it was gone. Ground Zero flamed out, leaving a gaping hole in Medford's bro fabric.

Time passed. Finally, some dude rolled into town from Reno, bringing with him his epic vision of buying most of downtown Medford and turning it into Shenanigans' Megaplex.

Shenanigans roared to life, bringing with it a new generation of boozers, bros and club rats. This crew, however, proved even more quick-tempered and violent than Ground Zero's denizens.

If Ground Zero was the Colosseum, then Shenanigans was the dark, dingy basement featured in "Fight Club."

To be fair, the outdoor area was unique to Medford's booze scene. The Rogue Valley's weather is world-class, and it's not surprising that a bar with a significant open-air space would do well.

Yet, a slew of DUIIs and the weekly hockey brawls, both inside the bar and on the sidewalks surrounding it. were enough for the Medford Five-0 and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, aka The Great Bureaucratic Fun-Killing Satan, to slam the business with warnings, mean looks and fines. Eventually, Shenanigans went down in flames.

You can't choose one group on which to place all the blame for the bar's failure. Certainly the coppers, The Great Bureaucratic Fun-Killing Satan and the Shenanigans' owners all played a hand in it.

But in the end, it comes down to the Cro-Magnon Club Bros. Bros ruined it, as they ruin everything they touch, punch or puke upon.

And now, in the wake of Ground Zero and Shenanigans, we have Pub Ink, another seemingly popular bar attracting a large crowd on weekend nights.

Pub Ink takes up a portion of the Shenanigans' shell, including the outdoor area. I've been there only a few times, and it looks to be doing OK for itself.

The threat of violence doesn't hang in the air, as it did in Shenanigans. There seems to be enough staff to keep things under control. There were some bros, but I didn't see them acting violent or insane.

But you never know with bros. They can flip at any minute and ruin everything.

The challenge facing Pub Ink is its popularity. We have seen what happens with go-to bars downtown in these parts. Maybe it can avoid that same fate.

Tune in next year to see how this story ends.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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