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Plans for Sellwood adult club spark protest — and counter-protest

by: David F. Ashton Protesters and counter protesters exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech, outside the Acropolis, and behind it, at the proposed second Portland location of Casa Diablo.

Neighbors from Ardenwald, Sellwood, and Milwaukie are doing their best to block the opening of a new 'gentleman's club' just south of the 'Acropolis Steak House Plus' at 8325 S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard, in the shadow of the Tacoma Street overpass.

Although residents and various public officials have contacted the Oregon Liquor Control Commission about it, and have secured a hearing before the OLCC late this year, the Casa Diablo adult establishment may soon open in the long-abandoned fast food shop on McLoughlin Boulevard across from what will become the MAX Tacoma Street Station.

At a September 9 demonstration at the site by members a Westside-based group called 'SOS Oregon', Sellwood neighbor Eric Miller said, 'We're here to raise awareness about the amount of crime and nuisance that is created by the two such clubs that already exist in the Sellwood and Westmoreland neighborhoods.'

Both the Acropolis and the proposed Casa Diablo sites are in the Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League's (SMILE) neighborhood, on the boundary with Ardenwald-Johnson Creek neighborhood, within the Portland City Limits. In May, the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek Neighborhood Association said it would oppose the new club.

'Two of the three 'strip clubs' in the neighborhood are causing significant nuisances for the neighbors living near them,' Miller said. Referring to police reports, he listed public drunkenness, vomiting and urination on private property, and the littering of beer bottles, IV drug needles, and used condoms, as 'weekly problems'.

About more severe occurrences, Miller added, 'Residents have reported to me that they have seen drunk patrons - clearly drunk - get in their cars and drive away. Recently, there have been cars on the side streets nearby that have been sideswiped by drunk drivers.'

Things get worse than that, Miller said. 'Neighbors [living near the adult establishments] have had increases in crime, break-ins in their cars, bicycles stolen, tires slashed.'

Of 56 such establishments in Portland, Miller pointed out that many of them don't cause nuisance and crime problems. 'We would like to see some resources from the city committed to [ending] these problems in our neighborhood. There are enough problems to lead organizations like 'SOS Oregon' to do a monthly stand-in at offending clubs, to point out the problems that exist around them.'

What neighbors seek, Miller explained, is 'although they are legally in this business - that they balance that right with the rights of residents to live peaceably nearby without crime.'

Just east of the 'SOS Oregon' stand-in, the owner of the proposed eastside 'Casa Diablo', also the owner of the N.W. Portland'Casa Diablo', Johnny 'Diablo' Zukle, was organizing his own counter-demonstration, a group which included ladies in his employ.

'Look around, this is a very industrial area,' Zukle asserted. [There is a large apartment house complex across the street, however.] 'We leased the building, we're investing in the economy, and creating jobs. We have more than 25 employees at our other club. It seems like we're doing good service by fixing up the building; it will look nice. We get lots of couples and ladies coming to our establishment. It's a nice clean operation; we do not do anything illegal.'

The reason for moving into this area, Zukle said, was that customers of his other club, which serves vegan food amid the adult activities, asked him to open another location in Southeast Portland. 'As the world's first vegan strip club, we attract many vegan customers. We found this location - a closed, run-down fast food place - in a commercial-looking area.'

Asked about his chances of opening this establishment, Zukle said, 'I don't think there is a really big force against us. They've written a lot of letters to the OLCC trying to slow down the licensing process. All they're doing is slowing us down creating jobs and helping the economy. I don't get it.'