The Cooler Club tavern is on track to change to Gems strip club on Oct. 1, according to owner Frank Hurliman.

News of the impending changes coming to 1735 S.E. Tualatin Valley Highway has already upset residents living in a nearby neighborhood. Katherine Longstreet, who lives in a house within half a mile of the tavern, is circulating petitions among neighbors opposing the change and plans to present them to the Hillsboro City Council.

But last week, Hurliman said he is going ahead with the change anyway.

“We’re building stages and the place needs to be painted, but the work should be done on time,” said Hurliman, who plans to keep the tavern open through September in its existing format.

Hurliman said he does not plan to contract with an agency to provide dancers to his business, like many other strip clubs do.

“We’ll probably just freelance,” Hurliman said when asked where the dancers will come from.

Staff members at the Hillsboro Planning Department are studying whether any city policies could be used to block the change from a tavern to a strip club, according to city spokesman Patrick Preston. The city’s legal options are limited, because the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled the free speech provisions of the Oregon Constitution protect nude dancing.

However, Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey said the city will keep close track of the business.

“Just as we do with any business in the city of Hillsboro, we will continue to work with the owner of the Cooler Club to address the concerns that we have heard from members of our community,” said Willey.

Hurliman has owned the Cooler Club for more than 30 years. He said he is making the change because business has dropped in recent years, and he hopes to attract more customers.

— Doug Burkhardt contributed to this report.

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