A Protest of a Protest: SOS Oregon Takes on Casa Diablo

by suzyhooker on September 13, 2011 · 11 comments

in Activism, Politics, Strippers

photos by Kat

I heard from a friend that Portland’s vegan strip club, Casa Diablo, was staging a protest against the meat served at the Acropolis Steakhouse* strip club. Then I saw on the Facebook event page that Casa Diablo were rallying for the OLCC to approve a liquor license for their soon-to-open second location (which happens to be next door to Acropolis). Then I read on OregonLive that SOS Oregon, a Beaverton organization, were protesting the Acropolis. I checked SOS Oregon’s site to learn that they were protesting three things: the new Casa Diablo, the mere existence of the 35-year-old Acropolis, and another strip club two miles away, Blush. Because SOS Oregon were staging a protest, Casa Diablo decided to counter-protest. Confused yet?

As irritating as I find Casa Diablo’s brand of PETA-inspired sexy veganism, it should go without saying that I’m on the side of whoever is not SOS Oregon. If you want an example of the kind of rhetoric that irresponsibly conflates sex trafficking with sex work, look no further. (It seems that we cannot write enough about how damaging this is to both victims of sex trafficking and sex workers, but here is a start.) While most of the material on SOS Oregon’s site is laughably inaccurate, the fact that this glorified neighborhood association is gaining clout is disconcerting. More alarming still is that they seem to be rebranding themselves with less mention of decreased property values and more language about protecting/saving sex workers. Let’s take a minute to have some comic relief at excerpts from PDFs available on their site (there are plenty more where these come from).

On the subject of lingerie modeling (peepshows):

Police say these places are fronts for prostitution. In addition, where there’s a prostitute, a pimp is around the corner, so don’t mess around with the young women working inside. While they are typically not well-protected on the premises, the pimp will eventually catch up with you. You have just messed with his goods. He sets the rules on how those goods are handled and abused.

Even if this were true (which it so isn’t), if you give a prostitute business, a cinematic 1980’s pimp will beat you up because he doesn’t want your money? It must be strange to live in a world where there’s a pimp lurking around every corner.

The following snippet is from the info sheet for the Acropolis/Casa Diablo/Blush protest. The list of offenses committed by the three clubs is long and varied and includes a homeless creek-dweller. (It also includes some xenophobic undertones when citing that Blush’s owner is related to the owner of the Dophin Clubs).

In addition, Acropolis borders Johnson Creek, and a visit there on Friday revealed a person who claims he is the “maintenance man” for Acropolis living in a tarp-covered lean-to on the banks of the creek.

If anything, the existence of SOS Oregon serves as a reminder that Portland’s liberal bubble is not impenetrable. In fact, conservative megachurch Mars Hill just started services this week at their newest location in the heart of Southeast Portland. (One of their promotional videos makes note of Portland’s “thriving sex industry that goes back more than a century,” so this could get interesting.) While the extent to which members of SOS Oregon are religiously motivated isn’t revealed on their site, I would be hard-pressed to believe that they’re not.

Seeing these people in person for the first time was an experience; it’s always interesting when you finally get a face for a name. Or in this case, several faces. Faces with expressions of discomfort. Most of them looked sheepish and pathetic, avoiding eye contact with the real live strippers. They were holding signs about daughters (“Our daughters are not for sale,” “They want our daughters”) and meanwhile here were these vibrant daughters, wives, mothers, people, right in front of them. It really seemed like facing the women whose workplace they were trying to shut down hadn’t occurred to them as being part of the deal. When I think of individuals standing up for what they believe, I don’t usually picture people who look horribly embarrassed; I dare say the whole thing was a little too humanizing for most of the SOS protesters. Here were these alleged victims of trafficking and alleged tax evaders (another moot point all over on SOS’s site) in the flesh, there of their own accord, laughing and cheering together (and looking adorable, I might add).

It’s unfortunate that I had to overhear the owner of Casa Diablo, dressed like an aging Juggalo in his custom-made “Casa Diablo 666” jersey, say, “Real men don’t buy girls… they just rent ’em!” I would prefer that “my” side have a better ambassador, but I’m not sure I even have a side. The world may have only two vegan strip clubs, but Portland has far more strip clubs than it needs and my heart sinks every time a new one opens. I say this coming from a place of experiencing the financial consequences of working in a city with a disproportionate supply to its demand, and not concern for our moral climate. (I do appreciate that it could be much worse—at least we don’t have the sky-high fees that come with Deja Vu monopolies experienced in other cities.) Ultimately, I believe that if the other fifty-something strip clubs in Portland have a right to exist, then Casa Diablo shouldn’t be treated any differently. In this case, I don’t see why they can’t become a juice bar and then apply for a liquor license, a process that many other clubs have had to go through.

Regardless, I wish the strippers of Casa Diablo the best, and hope that SOS Oregon doesn’t film their parking lot and broadcast it online and/or take photos of their patrons’ license plates like they’ve done to lingerie modeling businesses in Beaverton. I also predict that there won’t be much of a jump in crime due to the new Casa Diablo, if these maps of the areas surrounding other strip clubs that SOS Oregon have targeted are any indication. It’s a shame that those purporting to care about sex workers don’t actually talk to them to find how how they can be of real help—or at least make eye contact.

*Whose family also have a cattle ranch

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Elle September 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I really want to track S.O.S and keep up with their ‘appearances’, since I’ll have the free time. Any kind of public speaking before councils/etc sounds fun, carefully articulating our side, even if it’s not specifically in support of Casa.


Rocket September 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Elle, I’m with you on this. If you plan to attend any meetings or rallies, please give me a heads up and I will gladly come with you.


Vixen September 15, 2011 at 3:13 am

I always wonder how many of the men protesting strip clubs secretly sneak into one when they think no one is watching.


SOS Oregon September 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Your article is very interesting, though I do have issues with a number of your facts and will not cite all of them as I would rather do that in a face-to-face meeting.

The protest in front of the proposed Casa Diablo location was not protesting “the mere existence of the 35-year old Acropolis and another strip club two miles away …” This is from the latest SOS Oregon newsletter explaining why Sellwood-Moreland neighbors decided to hold a Stand-in:

Sellwood‐ Moreland neighbors have gathered together to fight the opening of Casa Diablo, a strip club currently operating in NW Portland whose owner, Johnny Zuckle, avoided a time/place/manner violation hearing by selling the club to a friend. In the midst of fighting the location of this club in their neighborhood, Sellwood‐Moreland residents became aware of ongoing harassment of neighbors near Blush and Acropolis.
Neighbors of Blush and Acropolis have seen and heard:
•Club patrons trespassing onto neighbor’s property to do drugs and have sex (one instance of this resulted in an arrest for cocaine possession);
•Car tires slashed, cars broken into and bicycles stolen;
•Club patrons, appearing to be DUI, sideswiping vehicles on 3 separate occasions;
•Used condoms, cigarettes, beer bottles, and porn mag/club guide in neighbors’ yards;
•Club employees abandoning dogs in their cars for 9+ hours during their work shift;
•Club patron urination on private property and in the street;
•Club patrons stumbling down street to their cars, appearing drunk and over‐served;
•Club patrons leaning out of their cars to vomit;
•Club employees urinating and dumping bags of garbage into Johnson Creek;
• Club patrons & employees revving car & motorcycle engines in club parking lot & up/down street at
excessive decibel levels as late as 2:45 am;
• Club parking lot lights above legal luminescent limit shining into neighbors’ houses;
• Excessive noise from club sound system and from patrons exiting the club until 2:30 am.
Residents are asking law enforcement and city officials to enforce Portland’s civil and criminal codes. Steve Pharo, executive director of OLCC, walked the neighborhoods near Blush and Acropolis and promised to contact the owners of the clubs to address neighbors’ concerns. OLCC’s authority extends only to alcohol‐related issues.

You accuse the SOS Oregon website of being “laughably inaccurate.” Unfortunately, like your article, much information in this industry is anecdotal, although Shared Hope is currently putting together a study regarding trafficking in the strip club industry. I have personally spoken with three dancers who told me some clubs in Portland are involved in trafficking. One ex-dancer sent me an email about the Desmarais clan and their clubs’ involvement with trafficking. The charges against them are related to prostitution, but when any woman works in an environment where she is coerced into selling sex acts deemed illegal in the state of Oregon and providing part of her earnings to that coercer, she is being trafficked.

Material on the SOS Oregon website is based on interviews with police officers, a few dancers, and activity observed outside strip clubs and private room businesses. A “cinematic 1980’s pimp” was not seen, but another guy was and told SOS Oregon protestors to “stop messing with my business.” This was outside Ben Cunningham’s business and he was not Ben Cunningham, and his “business” appeared to be checking up on the woman working inside as he did not stay long enough to pay for a show.

As for “xenophobic undertones” I have no idea what you are referring to. Yes, both the Blush owner and the Dolphin owner have the same last name so they may be related. You are bringing in xenophobia – why? Because of the last name? That is your issue, not SOS Oregon’s issue.

I did not see anyone at the protest with uncomfortable faces. In fact, Sellwood-Moreland neighbors accepted water and watermelon from the man you describe as “an aging Juggalo …” and from another man. Now who is being biased? Look at the pictures you published. People on both sides are just hanging and talking. You were taking pictures, others were taking pictures … it was just like a picnic … with signs … sometimes nonsensical perhaps on both sides, but signs and smiles nonetheless.

Many people would like to frame this argument into an attack on sexuality and tag SOS Oregon as some sort of moral police. This is entirely and completely inaccurate. We started in Beaverton when we got tired of neighborhood businesses vacating their leases due to harassment from neighboring strip clubs. We are, and continue to be, concerned with what is going on outside strip clubs. I tried to work with the owners of these clubs who professed to wanting to be good neighbors, but these guys wouldn’t even attempt the simple task of policing their parking lots. Ky Le told me, “I am in the business of making money, not spending it, and, in the end, I can do whatever I want, and you will go away.” Well, it is hard to go away when neighbors of strip clubs are emailing and complaining about patrons’ activities outside these clubs all over Portland. These are not neighborhood bars whose owners are interested in being good neighbors. As for crime stats, there are stats on Zuckle and other clubs (Zuckle was cited for a time/place/manner violation), but much is not reported due to owners intimidating neighbors and business people, and police not filing reports when perpetrators have already left the scene.

SOS Oregon continues to educate itself about this industry. I have met with a representative of sex workers and hooked her into BOLI and OLCC officials because I think workers in this industry need a voice and are all too often faceless and nameless. I have had a few conversations with dancers outside these clubs. I am willing to meet with anyone about this industry and would have spoken with protestors on Friday except I have found it is difficult to have an open conversation when a club owner is hanging around. I certainly do not prejudge, as you have clearly done in your article bringing in some info about “conservative mega church Mars Hill” which I have never heard of, but will now be looking up. SOS Oregon is comprised of social liberals and conservatives who agree on one thing – no one has the right to harass and intimidate. Email help@sosoregon.org if you would like to discuss further. I am most decidedly not some church lady and have no bias to bring to the table unless it is against owners who have continually lied to me and in public forums about how they want to work with neighbors, not against them, and then break good neighbor agreements and promises left and right.


suzyhooker September 16, 2011 at 5:12 pm

1) Any further comments with copied/pasted bullet points will not be approved.

2) It’s Zukle.

3) Speaking of surnames, your 8-29-11 update doesn’t just say “Yes, both the Blush owner and the Dolphin owner have the same last name so they may be related,” and in fact says, “Makboul, who owns a house in Beaverton, has been in the news before in regards to OLCC, and is related to Dean MacBale, owner of the Dolphin clubs, who was accused of unlawful sexual penetration in May, and resisting arrest and DUI in March.” Since the owner of Acropolis also has relatives who own adult businesses, it causes the reader to wonder why a blood relationship matters in one instance and not the other, and why it is relevant at all.

4) If you don’t want people to think that SOS Oregon is faith-based, then you might want to consider getting your information from a source that is not Shared Hope.

5) If “no one has the right to harass and intimidate,” then what do you call actions such as taking photos of license plates and broadcasting the parking lots of adult businesses online?


SOS Oregon September 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm

1) Okay
2) Added a c by mistake. It is also Diablo.
3)SOS Oregon was told they are related. I was not aware Acropolis owners are related to other adult entertainment business owners and it would only matter if these relatives were headed to court for crimes like DUI and unlawful penetration of one of their workers, or like the Desmarais clan they operated numerous businesses under federal investigation.
4) I did not realize Shared Hope is faith-based. SOS Oregon gets information from all sources including inside the industry. As for caring whether people think SOS Oregon is faith-based or not is less important than making sure SOS Oregon is not misrepresented by club owners and the media.
5) License plate photos were taken of people trying to run us over with cars on public property. We documented this for police as we were sure by the time police arrived, they would be gone. Business owners near the private room business you reference were instrumental in putting up a camera to monitor their lots as customers of the business were parking illegally in their private lots and they feared crime based on the private room business owner’s past record. They have the right to monitor their private property. Taking photos/videos of people who are harassing, intimidating, creating a nuisance, and trespassing is a way to document this for later investigation.
Again, happy to meet with you to discuss. You have my email.


Charlotte Shane September 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm

As someone who does not live in Portland and has no experience with or knowledge of your organization beyond your comment and the article here, I find it extraordinarily disingenuous that you present yourself as a group primarily concerned with having “good neighbors” but then show up to protest with signs saying “They want our daughters.” That belies an agenda that goes well beyond worrying about local businesses obeying noise ordinances—as does opening with claims of “trafficking,” and as does your implication that a man who tells you to stop messing with “his business” must be a pimp (not an off-duty DJ or bartender or bouncer) because he’s not recognizable to you as the owner and didn’t stay long enough to qualify, in your eyes, as a paying customer on that day. Just a few minutes on your website proves you have an issue with all adult businesses because they are selling adult services, hence your comfort in claiming that all of them don’t pay taxes or maintain their buildings, and aren’t “legitimate businesses.” Care to tell us again how you don’t “predjudge”?


Natalia September 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm

As a Beaverton resident with 2 children going to school in the Beaverton school district, I certainly sympathize with anyone who has an issue with the number of adult businesses in this area. I, on average, drive by 2 strip-clubs per day in order to get to downtown Portland or get my kids to school/go the the grocery store. This definitely bothers me and I miss living in Vancouver where this wasn’t an issue. However, due to the numerous inaccurate statements posted on the SOS Oregon website, some of which were mentioned in this article, I cannot affiliate myself with SOS Oregon. I have been an exotic dancer for 10 years in the Beaverton area and have never experienced any of the crimes/cruelties mentioned by this group. I’ve only worked at 4 Portland area clubs so my personal experiences certainly do not represent the adult industry as a whole but the SOS Oregon website makes their claims, which are based on information OUTSIDE of Oregon (see their resources page), appear to be fact. One example of this is the claim that dancers only take 50% or less of the money customers pay for private dances. In my club, I take home 100% of the money I make in the champagne room and 80% of all the money I make in the VIP room. I am saddened that a neighborhood group like this, with a cause I could potentially support, chooses to use misleading and false statements to trick the ignorant. Not only has MY CHOICE to work in this industry led to me getting into graduate school but it also allows me the freedom to volunteer in my kids’ schools on a regular basis during the day and be home for them and my amazing husband of 9 years 5/7 nights a week. My life is very happy and financially secure while I see my neighbors and friends struggling to pay their bills/daycare costs,keep their jobs and to keep their marriages together. My suggestion to SOS Oregon: STOP using sensationalist/false statements on your website and START using accurate data from Oregon, you know, the state mentioned in your name.


mindy c September 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm

i was doing some research on SOS Oregon late this summer for a project. i found out about their “campaign” because they’re using “experts” and materials provided by conservative/right-wing organizations including the National Obscenity Law Center (part of Morality in the Media), Citizens for Community Values, the Community Defense Counsel and other groups. The websites of these organizations also offer “inside views” of “stripbars” and other Sexually Oriented Businesses (yes, that’s SOBs) as well as links to anti-trafficking and fundamentalist Christian websites. These are the same “experts” and model laws that have been passed in other cities to shut down clubs.
Beaverton residents may be “concerned citizens” but they’re not a simple grassroots neighborhood group. They are being advised and guided by people on the national level who have a lot of experience with this type of campaign.


jane October 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm

#1: this is supposed to be a free country. #2: the constitution requires freedom OF religion which also means freedom FROM religion. Why don’t you people who are protesting strip clubs get a life and join the protests against the 1% of Americans who have taken all the money and jobs and destroyed our economy? Perhaps ladies wouldn’t be stripping if/when they could get.decent jobs and afford college. their choice of work is really none of your business!!!


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