It was an oft-used recipe from the city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement cookbook. In late February, ONI Liquor Licensing Program Coordinator Mike Boyer prepared and served Jody’s neighbors this hot, spicy heartburn-inducing dish. Neighbors are fighting to keep from eating another strip club.
A good chef always does their mise en place first:
• Mingle new strip club owners together with proximate homeowners and Oregon Liquor Control Commission representative, along with at least three ONI minions in a neutral setting.
In late February, the meeting took place at the city’s East Portland Neighborhood Office in the Hazelwood neighborhood, a few blocks Jody’s.
• Add dash of fundamental ONI neighborhood association baloney and facile assistance that every recipe in this cookbook requires.
“They [the neighborhood association] kind of led us to believe that ‘by gosh, this is really bad’ and ‘this really can’t take place,’” said longtime Hazelwood resident Marilyn Warr-King, who lives behind the strip club on Northeast 120th Avenue. “But it’s very political; I don’t believe anybody.”
• New owners tell neighbors they will monitor everything closely, that they will not allow people to hang around outside, and so on.
Alaska natives Tim and Rebeckah Lyons, who not only bought Jody’s strip club business but also the property at 12035 N.E. Glisan St. for $860,000 in June 2014, promised neighbors that they run a clean, efficient business and that the neighbors will see a difference from the previous owners. “I rely on our record; it speaks for itself,” Club SinRock owner Tim Lyons said. “There have been no shootings in any of our clubs, ever. There’s never been a serious incident at any of our clubs.”
In business for ten years, the Lyons own three non-alcoholic nightclubs: two in Alaska and one in Seattle, all with adult entertainment formats. “All the locations we have, the crime has actually gone down in our vicinity because of the way we operate our clubs,” Lyons added. “We police the parking lot. We don’t allow people to hang out in the parking lot.”
Responding to a question after the meeting about their lack of alcohol-serving experience, Lyons replied in an email, “Although we prefer the non-alcoholic business model and currently do not own or operate an alcohol-serving venue, we have operated an alcohol-serving nightclub/bar in Anchorage previous to Club SinRock. It offered live bands and younger customers that required strong security measures. We were successful in being virtually incident free during our tenure of management and operating of that club/bar.”
In addition, Lyons cites his management team as the reason for confidence in their ability to run an orderly establishment.
“We have two management/consulting figures in place that both have 30-plus years of restaurant and bar experience,” he said. “I am confident in our plan and approach to this business at this particular location. It is our goal to build a customer base that is part of and representative of the community as a whole. We feel that, profitability—and community relations—wise, it is important for our success that we secure the most experienced resources available to operate a responsible business.”
• For the appetizer course, a dozen or so angry neighbors residing near Jody’s—some say survived—who use new owners as a verbal piñata for decades of collective frustrations against Jody’s owner Joe Tanner, the one person not in the room.
“You’re not in Alaska; you’re not in East County Portland,” said Jeremy McCoy, who lives directly behind Jody’s. “Do you know where you’re at and what kind of clientele you’re going to be getting? We’re in a pretty rough neck of the woods.” He added, “Not to mention several bullet holes from the neighbor’s right behind. I’m 30 feet from the back door of Jody’s. I find needles back there, I find condoms; it’s terrible.”
Neighbor Pat Edwards, who said he is a former police officer and sits on the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association Board, asked Lyons, “How do you address the things you don’t really have any control over as it relates to crime?”
Flummoxed by the depth of the opposition to reopening at the same location and the neighbors’ anger, Lyons wondered why neighbors never mounted the same pressure against Tanner during decades of Jody’s operation. “I wish you would have formed 10 years ago to stop Jody’s,” said Tim Lyons, who spoke for the couple.
• Stir in Oregon Liquor Control Commission policy that says without chronic crime issues, the law doesn’t allow OLCC to discriminate against strip clubs just because they’re strip clubs.
Morgan said there have to be 50 problems or more within 500 feet of the premises in the year preceding the application for a liquor license—not just calls for police service, but incidents engendering a report—for a bar to be considered a problem area and denied a license. There were nine in the calendar year before the Lyons applied.
• Suffuse the recipe with a dollop of fact-understating bureaucrat who says nuisance and criminal issues can cause a place to lose a license, but not because it is a strip club.
“They were a challenging neighbor to be around,” said Boyer about Jody’s. “The type of entertainment that this particular venue wants to do, we do not have the ability to raise that as an objection to deny the license,” Boyer told neighbors. “Because of the previous problem location, it will be an unfavorable recommendation, and we will be recommending some types of restrictions (security staffing requirements; hours of operation; type of drinks sold) on the license.”
• When the ingredients comes to a boil—unavoidable with this recipe—bureaucratic chef Boyer shrugs shoulders in helplessness.
“The city/state were enablers allowing the previous business owner to operate as they did for so many years,” Lyons said in an e-mail after the meeting.
• Sprinkle with two ONI crime-prevention coordinators doing their best mime imitations.
Main Course: OLCC approves Club SinRock’s licensing in June. A dish marinated in a sauce of neighborhood anger shifting from new owners to city and OLCC for giving residents false hope that if they organized and jumped through hoops, they could stop the club, which they never could. “In all honesty, we don’t deny very many licenses,” said Morgan. “We at least give people an opportunity, putting restrictions on their license, and then we try to give them a chance.”
Morgan said crime statistics are not too bad at Jody’s location. In addition, Morgan said there is nothing about the new owners that would prevent them from receiving a license. “From what I’ve seen from the file, there’s nothing that would specifically make us question who they are as licensees or put restrictions on the license based on them,” she said.
• For dessert: Club SinRock opens while bureaucrats move on.
“We accept the challenges; it’s a great country,” said Lyons said in his email. “Ultimately, we are optimistic that our license will be approved in time after everyone has their pound of flesh. We’ll do our best to be our best.”
• After meal mint: Unlike Tanner, the Lyons own the property, which more than likely will make a difference in how they operate and respond to neighborhood concerns.
“Most people didn’t know Tanner never owned the property, he was only leasing,” Lyons said. “Neighbors had lots of leverage with the real property owner if they would have been more proactive solving the problem.” Lyons added, “We’d like to work with our neighbors; we welcome any concerns or feedback.”
• The meal this tried and true ONI recipe produces leaves weary, fatigued neighbors with a bitter aftertaste of disappointment and further drains citizens’ faith in their city government.
“Now we realize we should have acted much much sooner. We had no idea that we could have any say in the matter,’ Warr-King said after the meeting. “Now, it’s already too late.”
• Tip for ONI chefs and servers: Harsh reality is always better than false hope.