Event Venues

Take It to the Bank (Your Meeting, That Is)

When I hear "alternative venue," I usually think nightclub or museum or performing-art center or, I don't know, bowling alley.

An Umpqua Bank in Portland’s Pearl District.

But then I listened to a report about Portland, Ore.-based Umpqua Bank on the public-radio show “Marketplace” the other day, and discovered that the true meaning of alternative venue is “about the last place you’d imagine would be interested in hosting your meeting.” Such as Umpqua Bank, whose branches are modeled on traditional storefront shops on the outside — connected to the streetscape and designed to entice walk-in traffic. And, “Marketplace” reports:

Inside the bank, it’s more like a trendy cafe — no brick-bunker security walls, just comfy chairs, bar tables, laptops. Also free cookies and Umpqua’s own blend of coffee.

It sounds like the exact same trends that are transforming traditional meeting facilities such as convention centers into more livable, multiuse public spaces. And, yes, Umpqua hosts community meetings. “Every month we hold a Wii bowling night,” one branch manager told “Marketplace.” “We just took on some homeowner association meetings. The Metropolitan Youth Symphony will be performing down here.” But I’m thinking no matter what your meeting’s subject matter, the vault is always going to be off limits.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.