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  • 20 Aug 2014

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OLCC tells Lottery Row bars to boost security

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission on Thursday voted to require stepped-up security at 11 of the 12 “Lottery Row” bars on Hayden Island. As a condition for awarding renewed liquor licenses for the next two years, the OLCC required each to employ a security guard to work the front door, check IDs, patrol the parking lot and perform other duties from 2 p.m. until closing time.

The OLCC will seek to strip the liquor license of the 12th establishment, Island Pizza, because there has been a pattern of illegal activities and liquor license violations on its premises. If the agency prevails in that effort, that would eliminate lottery games at Island Pizza as well as alcohol sales.

The Portland Police Bureau urged the OLCC to strip the liquor licenses of all 12 retailers on Lottery Row, a retail strip center across the street from the Jantzen Beach mall.

Added security at the strip mall — done in response to pressure from the police and OLCC — has reduced the crime problem, testified Commander Mike Leloff of the Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct. However, Leloff said the lottery bars typically have only one person on duty, and that makes it hard for that person to check IDs and monitor for illegal activities. Sometimes the bars are unattended, he said, while the lone employee is using the restroom or otherwise preoccupied.

Police Sgt. Mark Friedman said a “criminal culture” has flourished at Lottery Row for years, and it will take a long time to eliminate.

Several Hayden Island residents testified in hopes of shutting down gambling at all the establishments.

“They are more than just restaurants; they are basically gambling establishments,” said Marty Slapikas.

“We’re just a group of neighbors who banded together and said we can’t take it any more,” said resident Charles Kuffner.

Traci Chapman-Roy said she worries that it’s not safe for her daughters to walk to Starbucks because they have to walk near the vice-ridden Lottery Row. “Would you allow your daughter or elderly mother to walk past these establishments?” she asked.

Oregon Restaurant Services Inc., which owns six of the 12 lottery bars, sent several of its employees, who testified that the crime problems have been overblown or are in the process of being solved.

“If you choose not to renew these licenses, that would put 40-plus people out of work,” said Kelley Sheldon, ORSI’s operations manager.

Maggie Pesanti, a 25-year-old bartender at the Anchor Bar, said she earns enough to support herself and pay off substantial college loans. “Today I ask that you allow us to keep our jobs,” she said.

Charles Hare, a partner in CJ’s Eateries, which converted a former Mongolian restaurant into three of the lottery bars, said he will do whatever he can to satisfy the police and OLCC. “I understand that there was a crime problem there,” Hare said. But the beefed-up security that he’s paying for, Hare said, which he called a “shock and awe” campaign, has helped reduce problems.

Hare said he regrets opening the shops on Hayden Island, but still has seven years left on his lease. “I don’t like Hayden Island; I wish I’d never seen it. I wish I’d never gone there.”

OLCC staff proposed that all the 11 liquor licenses be renewed, and that three of the bars be required to have a second security staff on duty at all times.

But OLCC Commissioner Bob Rice said that was unfair, and proposed that all the bars be required to have a second staffer for security, after 2 p.m. The commissioners voted 4 to 1 for that plan.

Ron Schmidt, chairman of the Hayden Island Neighborhood Network, later sent out an email declaring a "great victory for our community."

Though Hayden Island residents had asked to shut down Lottery Row, Schmidt noted that the OLCC commissioners went further than their staff suggested.

"We expect to continue to reclaim our community step by step," he wrote.