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Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 07 July 2011

The City of Portland is seeking new powers to control bars and clubs. Proposed changes to the city's Time, Place and Manner regulations, would expand the City's ability to restrict bar hours, require bar owners to hire security staff and place other conditions on bar owners. Currently, the code kicks in if three "nuisance activities" are documented within 30 days. The new code would extend that time to 60 days and adds drug activity, prostitution and overcrowding to the list of "nuisances" that trigger action. It also would allow for immediate action after a "serious incident."

A public meeting to discuss the proposals is scheduled for 6 pm July 19 at Kenton Fire Station, 8105 N. Brandon Ave. Anyone interested in commenting on the proposed new powers is invited to attend.

Amy Archer, business operations supervisor at the city's Office of Neighborhood Involvement, says the original code, passed in 2004 has been successful. "We've seen that using the code, we've been able to problem solve with businesses and prevent problems from escalating into a more serious problem," Archer said. "In most instances we've been able to come up with a plan to make the problems go away."

But during the last two years, the oversight committee identified gaps. "We'd see incidents of littering, then that would escalate to disorderly conduct and then shots fired," she said.

The Oregon Liquor Licensing Commission already has authority granted by the Oregon Legislature to regulate liquor establishments. But OLCC spokesperson Christie Scott said the commission works closely with cities.

"We work in tandem with cities," Scott said. "One of the biggest benefits is that city police have more ability to do in-depth background checks. It's great to have this ability to do deeper checks because we don't have that."

The proposals come immediately after Portland Police Chief Mike Reese wrote the Oregon Liquor Licensing Commission requesting that an immediate emergency license suspension be placed on Seeznin's Sports Bar and Grill.

In his letter, Reese cites the fatal shooting June 26 of Leonard Irving, on 82nd Avenue opposite the bar. He also characterizes the bar as a hangout for "Crip" gang members and connects it to the shooting death of 19-year-old Mario Marin, 19 at nearby NE 86th St. and Sacramento.

Bar owner Sam Thompson strenuously denies any gang activity at the bar and says Chief Reese's allegations are false and defame his good name. Thompson says the deaths of Marin, who he never met and who never entered his bar; and Irving, who was a close friend; were a result of criminal behavior and not the fault of the bar. He points to his active involvement in community attempts to prevent violence in the community, through the Restore the Village initiative -- an initiative he started last year after a student he mentored was shot downtown.  Thompson says he has videotape that proves several of Reese's allegations are wrong.

"They have labeled my bar as a gang bar, not understanding that it's not that at all," Thompson said. "I'm a victim of the violence that's been going on  – as well as of these false accusations.

"I have no sympathy for gang members," he said. "I believe people who are terrorizing the community need to be treated as terrorists and taken off the streets."

The OLCC did not suspend Seeznin's liquor license, but instead placed stringent restrictions on the business. Thompson says the OLCC's conditions are unjust and effectively have run him out of business.

"It's sad," he says. "I worked way too hard on that place. But I didn't fail and I'm not defeated. We had no fights and no violence. None of these things occurred on our premises."

Seeznin Responds to Police Chief Reese's OLCC Letter: Read the full story

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