FireWorks Pub & Pizza closing after 20 years, hosting last event Feb. 5, 6


Eli Smart, Photographer

The sign of FireWorks Pub & Pizza located in south Corvallis, Ore at 1115 SE 3rd St. FireWorks is closing after 20 years of business and will be having its last event on Feb. 5 and 6.

Katterlea MacGregor, News Contributor

FireWorks Pub & Pizza, aka Intaba’s Kitchen, will hold its final farewell shindig on Feb. 5 and 6 before permanently waving goodbye to Corvallis, Ore. and its vibrant restaurant, performance and art scene.

The event celebrates the end of a 20 year-long run for the restaurant, located at 1115 SE Third St. The restaurant will remain closed until Feb. 5 and 6 for the final farewell event. From 4 to 9 p.m., $3 slices and pints will be served while a silent auction and garage sale will clean out much of the kitchenware. Strictly cash only, it will also be the last opportunity to attend one of the famed open mic nights.

FireWorks opened in 2002 when owners Ocean and Intaba Liff-Anderson stumbled upon an opportunity to create a makerspace, a collaborative workspace, with friends and fellow artists.

Just as FireWorks opened with a flurry of coincidences, it is set to close for multiple reasons. Some of these include the effects of COVID-19 on the restaurant business, an ending lease and the inevitable toll of time.

Flyer courtesy of Intaba and Ocean Liff-Anderson. A flyer advertising FireWorks Pub & Pizza’s last event on Feb. 5 and 6 before closing. The event will include a restaurant equipment silent auction and garage sale, as well as a performance showcase and open mic.

“Gotta move on, it’s time,” said Ocean Liff-Anderson, half of the dynamic duo that started the artistic hub almost 20 years ago.  

Intaba and Ocean Liff-Anderson initially received the building and lease from the First Alternative Co-Op located in south Corvallis. The Co-Op will retain the building following FireWorks’ official close.

Throughout the lifetime of FireWorks Pub & Pizza, the restaurant has hosted many kinds of artists. The physical aspect of the restaurant was originally crafted by fellow artists and friends of the Liff-Andersons.

“There’s a building technique called cob, which is natural adobe [brick],” Ocean Liff-Anderson said. “We decided we wanted to build a restaurant around an oven.”

They employed local artist and friend Kiko Denzer to craft the cobb patio and oven. Then came Maya. No ordinary oven, Maya stands almost 12 feet tall. Sculpted into her trunk is a face while hands intertwine next to the oven belly. Named after a concept in Hindu philosophy, Maya, FireWorks was built around its power of illusion.  

The restaurant has been coated in art since its conception. Local artists, like Beatrice Rubenfeld, hung their art on the walls.

“Oh, I’m going to miss it,” said Rubenfeld, whose impressionist works were some of the last local pieces to decorate FireWorks’ walls.

Others began their musical careers at FireWorks’ famed Monday open mic events.

“The walls were always filled with paintings from local artists, and the place was frequently promoting and hosting tasteful live music,” said Gabriel Surley, a local musician who had much success through the restaurant.

Surley used to perform at Fireworks’ open mic alongside his live painter, Kailyn Kubiak. Surley toured the West Coast performing his album “Metamorphosis,” much of which had been previewed at FireWorks.

Per the request of Ocean Liff-Anderson, Surley added an extra stop to his tour. It was rumored to be home to an oven shaped like a fire-breathing dragon. Upon arrival, Surley said he had found a surprise package from Liff-Anderson.

“Inside was 100 pressings of a second album called ‘FireWorks Bootlegs’ by Gabriel Surley,” Surley said. “Ocean put all the music and artwork together himself without me knowing and enlisted a musical engineer friend to master the music. What a surprise! He didn’t ask me for anything, he just told me he felt inspired to do it and suggested I get the music out there and have fun meeting people!”

Surley is among many artists who saw success after performing at FireWorks’ open mic. Adam Larson, a country music performer, also thanks FireWorks for his musical success.

“I never really understood open mics before… Being there that first night, it blew my mind,” said Larson, who had never performed in front of a crowd prior to that Monday night. “Everyone was so happy to see you there… I got hooked. The next Monday I came and wrote two songs in the back of the bar with the harmonica…FireWorks changed my life for the better.”

Larson said he returned every week after his first performance, continuously creating new music. He even met his wife at FireWorks one Monday night. Larson now pursues his musical career full time and has performed in local events like the Oregon Jamboree and on tour in places like Nashville, Ten.

Inspired by indie-pop and bluesy folk rock, Haley Johnsen is another rising artist who saw their start behind the open mic.

“It was one of the only open mic spots in town,” Johnsen said. “It was the first time I felt that thrill… the beginning of my career.”

Johnsen has seen great success since her time at FireWorks and recently finished a large concert tour.

“[FireWorks] was like a lighthouse to many of us,” said Surley, who echoed his appreciation for Ocean Liff-Anderson’s influence. “Ocean was like the godfather who held all the keys to us having such a poetry-in-motion experience.”

The legacy of FireWorks will continue through the visual and performance artists who inhabited the restaurant for so long, as well as the immovable oven named Maya.

“A lot of people have been involved over the years, so it’s hard to leave,” Intaba Liff-Anderson said.

The soon-to-be former restaurant owners wanted to stress the importance of eating local.

“A restaurant operates on a razor’s edge of profit,” Ocean Liff-Anderson said. “If you want your favorite restaurant to stick around… Be understanding and support your local restaurants. We give our lives for you to come and celebrate and we’re grateful to do that.”


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