By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
North Portland bar P Club (formerly the Portsmouth Pizza Pub) is facing accusations of illegal discrimination and an investigation by the Bureau of Labor and Industries following a complaint filed by a transgender patron, the Willamette Week reported Wednesday.
According to the BOLI complaint, bar owner Chris Penner, left two voicemails for regular customer Cassandra Lynn, asking her to stop coming to his establishment with her group of transgender and cross-dressing friends.
“We stopped going to the ‘P’ club because the owner asked our group to not come to his establishment anymore,” says Chris Elliott, 47, who attended the weekly “T-girl” gatherings with his transgender partner. “He left a 2 voicemails with one of the members of our group stating that we were costing him business and he did not want to have his establishment known as a ‘tranny’ bar or a gay bar.”
Penner tells PQ Monthly he received the paperwork on Thursday and that his lawyer would not permit him to comment on the complaint.
“It’s kinda baffling,” he says. “As long as people, no matter who they are, have respect for the establishment, the clientele, and the staff, they’re welcome. As long as they come in and behave themselves, everybody has a good time.”
But members of the social group — which included 15 to 40 people on any given week — say they never encountered any problems at P Club.
“We had been going to the P Club about two years on Friday nights, and in that time we never had a complaint or had an issue with any of the regular customers that we knew of,” says Susan Miller, 48, who identifies as a cross-dresser. “We are not out to cause problems or draw attention to ourselves we just wanted a place to go on a night with friends and have an enjoyable evening out just like anyone else.”
The voicemails attributed to Penner (which can be heard on a YouTube video posted by Lynn) don’t accuse the group of being disrespectful, or ill-behaved. Instead, the voice in the message says the concerns are purely financial.
“I’m going to have to ask for you, Cass, and your group not to come back on Friday nights. I really don’t like having to do that but unfortunately it’s the area we’re in and its hurting business a lot,” the June 18 message says.
A second message, left on June 21, reinforces the idea that the group’s presence was bad for business.
“I’ve done some investigating why my sales are declining and there’s two things I keep hearing: People think that a) we’re a tranny bar or b) we’re a gay bar. We are neither. People are not coming in because they just don’t want to be there on a Friday night now.”
Penner insists that he does not discriminate.
“The only response I have is – how do I want to put it – we’re not an anti-gay bar,” he told PQ. “I have had gay, lesbian and transgender employees [including the current bar and kitchen managers].”
He added that the bar has had held functions for the LGBTQ community in the past, including same-sex wedding receptions and a (now defunct) weekly gay night on Wednesdays called “Fame” (aka Gay Pizza).
You can watch the video containing the voicemails allegedly sent by Penner below. (Note: The voicemail is considerably quieter than Cassandra’s voice so you may need to adjust the volume accordingly.)
PQ Monthly will have more on this story in print and online on Aug. 16.