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Tualatin police weigh in on Stars

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What: Public hearing for Stars Cabaret-Bridgeport's liquor license application

When: Tualatin City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m.

Where: Council Building, 18880 S.W. Martinazzi Ave., Tualatin

TUALATIN - An investigation by Tualatin police is pushing for an unfavorable recommendation for the Stars Cabaret-Bridgeport liquor license.

Despite that recommendation, Randy Kaiser, owner of the Stars strip clubs chain, says he still expects the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to grant him a license for the new club.

'We learned long ago that the police department has to answer to the politicians,' Kaiser said. 'I am not surprised by this (the outcome of the police investigation).'

The police investigation picks apart the Stars application and Stars' licensees past histories and points out that the proposed club at 17939 McEwan Road is near a child-oriented business. The proposed site is on the Lake Oswego side of Interstate 5 and has residents in Lake Oswego concerned.

The 58-page investigation and staff report, which includes opposition letters from community members including Oregon state Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, and state Rep. Scott Bruun, R-West Linn, will be presented to the Tualatin City Council on Monday, Nov. 24, during a public hearing. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. The council could agree on a recommendation to give to the OLCC on Monday night. The OLCC has given the city until Dec. 2 to give a recommendation for the license application.

Police Chief Kent Barker has only presented one other liquor license denial to the city council - against Wichita Pub, a bar in the city's Commons area that initiated a high volume of police calls and one incident of a bar patron shooting a gun.

Despite that, City Manager Sherilyn Lombos admits that the public could perceive the thorough investigation and unfavorable recommendation against Stars as the city targeting the proposed strip club.

'We're sensitive to it (public perception),' Lombos said, 'because people could ask are we doing it because it's Stars? But then you have to ask, 'are there reasons to be concerned (about the liquor license)?' And yes, we think there are reasons to be concerned.'

Also an unfavorable recommendation guarantees that the OLCC commission will do an investigation and make the final decision on the license.

From the beginning, OLCC representatives have made it clear that while a whole community can show disgust for a new adult entertainment club's desired location, the commission is still bound by limited state statute in denying liquor licenses. The Oregon state Constitution protects adult entertainment as free speech and a form of business that can't be regulated by zoning any more than a bookstore.

'If we get an unfavorable recommendation (from Tualatin), we have to have a legal reason to deny the license. It can't just be a letter-writing campaign,' said OLCC spokeswoman Christie Scott a week before the Tualatin Police Department released its investigation into the Stars liquor license application.

Tualatin's investigation focuses on four areas as reasons to deny the license:

1) That existing Stars clubs - in Bend, Salem and Beaverton - do not have good records of compliance with the liquor laws of the state.

2) That existing Stars clubs have a history of serious and persistent problems involving disturbances, lewd or unlawful activities, public drunkenness, fights and altercations with reasonable inference that similar activities will occur at the premises proposed to be licensed.

3) That Stars Cabaret-Bridgeport would be located within 500 feet of a children-oriented recreational facility and adversely impact those facilities listed as My Gym Children's Fitness Center and 24-Hour Fitness Kids' Club.

4) That the application submitted for the liquor license was incomplete and inaccurate.

But do these things give the OLCC enough legal grounds to deny a liquor license?

For the concern about the record of compliance with state liquor laws, Tualatin's investigation is citing suspensions for two Stars establishments and several fines and warnings for all of the three existing Stars clubs for violations, including failure to verify age of minors, permitting minors in an establishment, permitting lewd activity and serving very intoxicated persons that resulted in a vehicle crash and DUII arrest.

But as OLCC spokeswoman Scott noted when news first broke of Stars intentions to open in Tualatin, 'They don't have a perfectly clean record. However, they're not bad operators.'

What about a bad behavior? According to Tualatin's investigation, the average number of police calls at the three Stars Cabaret clubs have been higher than the average number of calls for service at Tualatin's Jiggles - a strip club that does not serve alcohol.

But looking at the data provided by the Tualatin police for the investigation, Stars Cabaret clubs' average number of police calls has been higher than Jiggles for only two out of the past four years.

In 2007, the Stars clubs had 406 calls for service in Bend, Salem and Beaverton - an average of 135 calls. Jiggles had 95 calls for service during the same year.

But so far in 2008, the three Stars clubs have had a total of 249 calls for service - an average of 83 calls. Jiggles, so far this year, has had 102 calls for service.

In 2006, Stars had an average of 111 calls for service, and Jiggles had 89. And in 2005, Stars had an average of 54 calls for service, and Jiggles had 68.

Oregon Administrative Rule 845-005-0326 does give a glimmer of hope for communities that see a liquor license as not being in the public's best interest.

The rule gives communities reason to complain if the establishment is located within 500 feet in suburban or suburban areas from a licensed child-care facility, elementary or secondary school, or a children-oriented recreational facility. But the rule noted that those facilities would have to be negatively impacted.

Tualatin's investigation lists My Gym Children's Fitness Center and 24-Hour Fitness Kids' Club as being within 500 feet of the proposed Stars facility.

'Having an establishment that generates such a large number of police calls near children-oriented recreational facilities… will adversely impact these centers and the children who go there,' Police Chief Barker wrote in his investigation.

Scott, with the OLCC, noted that while that rule could apply to this situation, business owners would have to show that the Stars club would have an impact on their day-to-day business.

'It would have to be such an impact that they are not able to do business,' Scott said.

Bob Briede, manager for 24-Hour Fitness in Tualatin, has been an active part of the citizen-organized group CHANGE which is opposed to the strip club. Briede did not return recent calls asking for comment, but in previous public meetings he did state that Stars was a concern for his business.

Lastly, for the incomplete and inaccurate application concern, Tualatin police cited that applicants Jeff Struhar, Todd Marlow Mitchell, Randy Kaiser and Pamela Colburn withheld additional violations from the violations listed on their applications for licensees' histories.

The controversial issue is almost guaranteed to bring in a large crowd to Monday's public hearing.

'It's obviously going to be a circus,' said Kaiser who plans to attend the meeting.

Acknowledging that he would have a few points to hit on during the hearing, he declined to mention just what 'embarrassing information' he might bring up.

'I think I will save my ammunition for Monday,' he said.