by Rex Breathes email@example.com
Stars Cabaret is an upscale, Las Vegas-style exotic dance club featuring four stages with state-of-the-art lighting and sound. It's also the only nude dancing establishment in the City of Beaverton, Oregon, where the motto is, "nude dancing over our dead bodies, or yours." Randy Kaiser has been fighting the OLCC -- Oregon's behemoth liquor control agency -- at the behest of the city of Beaverton to the tune of over $300,000 in legal fees and counting. Last month, Randy and the Stars Corporation won their first battle when the OLCC commissioners were forced to concede their first of three assaults on Stars' license. It took a 142-page ruling by the OLCC's own administrative law judge defending Stars' position, and 10 days of court proceedings to persuade the commissioners to vote 3-to-1 in favor of Stars retaining its license... for the time being.
"They (OLCC and City of Beaverton) thought we intentionally avoided the city council approval," Randy said of the principal reason behind the legal harangue. "Anything the public has an interest in, they have a right to get the city opinion," Randy summed up the OLCC's position. "We argued with that issue... Never before in the history of the City of Beaverton or the OLCC has a city been asked for their opinion on a change of stockholders... It's a landmark case."
Knowing the City of Beaverton would hands-down refuse the opening of any nude dancing establishment, Mr. Kaiser and his group arranged the purchase of a club called Garfield's as a change of stockholders. Using the OLCC's own rules, Mr. Kaiser deliberately structured the deal to bypass city approval, but still provided the OLCC with all information required by their laws.
Needless to say, the City of Beaverton did not want any nude dancers in its town, especially when it's denied a chance to protest. And the OLCC didn't like Stars beating them at their own game. So the City of Beaverton whined to the OLCC, which whined to the attorney general's office of Oregon to cry foul: We were deceived! And the battle for the right to strut around naked in six-inch platform shoes, on stage in the City of Beaverton began. Rather ironic that the attorney general -- who is bound to uphold Oregon's constitution and its first amendment protecting obscenity as free speech -- would be called upon to prosecute the case for the OLCC (and Beaverton) against Stars. But up is down and black is white in the twilight zone of OLCC proceedings.
"We feel that the OLCC, at the behest of the City of Beaverton, is engaged in conduct to deprive us of our constitutional rights -- and that is to suppress nude dancing," Randy described the stand he and Stars are taking. "The judge (OLCC) concluded that our civil rights were violated by the City of Beaverton, but she failed to conclude that the OLCC violated our rights... No surprise there," Randy added. In spite of that ruling and the commissioner's yes vote, the City of Beaverton (remember, over their dead bodies or yours) is filing an appeal. Stars has offered to back down from a civil suit against Beaverton in exchange for consideration, i.e., drop your appeal and leave us alone. Stars' position is weighted by the judge's ruling and how costly a civil suit could be to Beaverton. But Beaverton has the hysteria of moral outrage and the worthless, emotional conclusion that nude dancing is simply bad for the community. Never mind that the OLCC judge concluded that there is no evidence to support the idea that nude dancing establishments create problems, thus require public disclosure.
"In two months, I documented the police coming through our parking lot or coming inside 180 times," Randy summed up the kind of microscope Stars has been under to prove that nude dancing leads to lawlessness. "My research concluded that Cub Foods and Stuart Anderson's Cattle Company had over 300 police calls in a year. We had 12 calls, one of which was because someone had set our building on fire," Randy boasted. Or, the problem with nude dancing is in people's minds. When the OLCC judge ruled the opposite of moral outrage, a precedent was set for the opening of nude dancing clubs throughout Oregon.
Willing to go to any lengths to dredge up negative opinion about Stars, OLCC investigators (three or four working eight months and sparing no time or expense) discovered a contractor that worked for Stars had a warrant for an out-of-state DUII. He was jailed and offered a deal: Testify against Stars and we'll make it easy on you. He said, no thanks. But that's not all. The OLCC subpoenaed telephone records as if they were prosecuting a felony case. They sent in spies on no less than 25 occasions equipped with a special form designed just for Stars, to help the spies find the dirt; any dirt would do.
And it all came back to bite the OLCC when they contacted a neighbor who runs a daycare center two blocks from Stars. Surely, they thought, this woman would testify against Stars. Instead, the OLCC found out her name is not Shirley and, "She wound up giving testimony for Stars, saying overall we run a quieter and nicer facility than what was here before (Garfield's)," Randy prided. That carried a lot of weight with the OLCC judge's decision.
"In the nude dancing business, you are always guilty until proven innocent," Randy vented the spleen of Stars' persecution. "When we raised $12,500 for charity in our golf tournament, the City of Beaverton had no comment... If Stars had the cure to cancer, the City of Beaverton and the OLCC would say, 'No, we like cancer.'"
"They (OLCC) want to change the rules that we're required to tell them everything from the very beginning. We told them what was required," Kaiser said. He has no problem with the OLCC changing their own rules, but not to retroactively affect the operation and licensing of Stars. Randy summed up the attorney general's position on behalf of the OLCC, on behalf of Beaverton, by saying, "If you look at the trees, we did nothing wrong. But if you look at the overall scheme of things, what we did is subterfuge, a sham (according to the attorney general)... If they don't like the overall picture, they need to change their own rules... We avoided public notice. We didn't do anything illegal. We avoided, not evaded." Randy pointed out the difference between the two is the same as in tax law; evasion is illegal, avoidance is not.
Stars still has two more license threatening cases pending with the OLCC, not to mention Beaverton's appeal of the commissioners' decision. "My legal bill was $25,000 last month... I had very good legal representation. For 300 grand I should," Kaiser said. "Unless you have very deep pockets and a lot of time, you cannot get a license (from the OLCC for a nude dancing club). When we tried to open downtown (Portland), they (OLCC) wanted to fight us for two or three years. So we got smarter," Randy asserted. By going the route of a change of stockholders, Stars has remained open throughout the epic battle. Otherwise, the OLCC would have won in the first couple of rounds.
What is shocking is that in the entire Portland metro area, Stars is probably the cleanest, most professional and tightly run nude dancing club by far. It has a stiff cover charge, a dress code and a serious security staff. It also has some of the finest looking dancers this side of Las Vegas. There is nothing sleazy, low down or dirty about Stars by any stretch of the imagination... unless, of course, you're a person of moral indignation who has never stepped foot inside.
Stay tuned to these pages for the never ending saga of battling the behemoth for the right to serve alcohol in the presence of nude dancers. Because, with the OLCC, it's never over till they say it's over. And for Stars, their fight with the big bully who's still sitting on their chest in the playground, is far from being over.