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Portland, Ore., bar owner fined $400,000 for banning transgender patrons

Saturday, August 31, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland bar owner has been ordered to pay about $400,000 to a group of transgender patrons he banned from his establishment last year.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries civil rights division imposed the penalty against Chris Penner, owner of the Twilight Room Annex, The Oregonian reported Friday.

The Oregonian
The Twilight Room Annex, formerly branded as the P Club.

Eleven people will share in the penalty, with amounts ranging from $20,000 to $50,000.

It’s the first penalty imposed under the 2007 Oregon Equality Act, which protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender Oregonians in employment, housing and public places. Some other complaints ended in settlements.

The bureau’s civil rights division began investigating the bar formerly known as The P Club last year after owner Chris Penner left a voice message for one of the T-Girls, a social group for transgendered people that went to the bar on Friday nights.

According to the complaint filed with the bureau, the message said: “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 here on a Friday night now.”

The complaint listed 11 aggrieved persons, 10 of whom present as women. Their legal names are not given.

The T-Girls said they were devastated and humiliated. They said they went to the bar every Friday for two years because they felt safe there — the bartender treated them well, and bouncers walked them to their cars as they left.

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“The individuals had found a place at the P Club where they found they could share their lives, their stories,” Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said. “When that is stripped away, that is an indignity that is severe.”

Penner denied last year that he is biased, and had once hosted a weekly dance night for gays in the space, and a gay pool team has practiced in the bar.

But, he said, other customers complained that the T-Girls left the stall doors open and seats up in the women’s restrooms, and business had dropped.

Penner’s lawyer, Jonathan Radmacher, said his client was not surprised by the decision: Avakian brought the complaint, and his deputy affirmed it.

“The writing was on the wall,” Radmacher said, “but we went through the process because we thought it was important that the facts came out.”

In 2001, Portland enacted a law banning discrimination against gay and transgender people in employment and public places.

The Legislature passed a similar ban for the whole state in 2007. Since then, the Labor Bureau has received 182 complaints of discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

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74 more reader comments:

  1. Being mean costs money. Don´t do it!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:36pm
  2. Being mean costs money. Don’t do it!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:36pm
  3. Awesome! Nobody is above the law, not even ignorant bigots.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:37pm
  4. My idea of supporting this pathetic bar owner. For this football season, all the transgendered brothers and sisters fill the bar every Monday night and drink nothing but the soda water with lots of ice. Pitchers of water, all around. (Drinking responsibly and supporting a cause). The bar will be full and no one gets hurt :)

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:41pm
  5. Except maybe, the purse strings of the fool. :)

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:44pm
  6. Winning

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:45pm
  7. Kristine Tarcy Hollander Christina Clowes thought you´d like to see this if you hadn´t already

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:53pm
  8. Kristine Tarcy Hollander Christina Clowes thought you’d like to see this if you hadn’t already

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:53pm
  9. good

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:59pm
  10. Stiff fine! But they had it coming.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:05pm
  11. I´m glad!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:08pm
  12. I’m glad!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:08pm
  13. Great idea, Debra Todd! Love it!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:15pm
  14. This is unusual for PDX, one of the most GLBTQ supportive cities in the US. If other patrons weren´t coming in, it´s because the bar couldn´t compete…it was a dump!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:19pm
  15. This is unusual for PDX, one of the most GLBTQ supportive cities in the US. If other patrons weren’t coming in, it’s because the bar couldn’t compete…it was a dump!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:19pm
  16. I was blessed 2walk glory n grace that s Oregon! moment. Oregon s most dangerous 4transwomen! An acquaintance was murdered! I was followed y threaten by family member of an employee at Oregon Health Division! At 5? 04 p.m. I y co-worker Neil took our seats on the Bart

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:30pm
  17. No one seems to realize this doesn´t just punish the bar owner… This will more than likely put him out of business… which means people will be losing jobs, including the bartender, and bouncers who were nice to this group. This was too excessive.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:32pm
  18. No one seems to realize this doesn’t just punish the bar owner… This will more than likely put him out of business… which means people will be losing jobs, including the bartender, and bouncers who were nice to this group. This was too excessive.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:32pm
  19. I think he was too excessive!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:39pm
  20. It´s time these people were slapped down. More fines and they will learn to keep their unimportant opinions to themselves.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:40pm
  21. It’s time these people were slapped down. More fines and they will learn to keep their unimportant opinions to themselves.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:40pm
  22. good! no more time for Hate!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:46pm
  23. No, next time, if there is one, i hope the business closes.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:47pm
  24. good work PDXorCISistz!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:09pm
  25. @Shelly Murphy, I´m pretty sure a bar owner has more than enough money to keep his company afloat. This was not “too excessive” its more than fair. If this dude has enough funds o open a bar, he has more than enough to pay the fines for being a prick.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:13pm
  26. @Shelly Murphy, I’m pretty sure a bar owner has more than enough money to keep his company afloat. This was not “too excessive” its more than fair. If this dude has enough funds o open a bar, he has more than enough to pay the fines for being a prick.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:13pm
  27. Good News!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:13pm
  28. PDX, not one of the most GLBTQ supportive cities in the US. In a sector of the city yes. I lived in the area for awhile. Sometimes people put blinders on and can´t or don´t what to see what is right in front of them. This way they don´t have to deal with it. Then finally someone steps up and does something about it, because they can´t take it anymore. Cheers to those who stood up and fought for our rights and there´s too! Somewhat sorry for those who will lose their job in this. But who wants to be employed buy a business or origination such as this?

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:20pm
  29. PDX, not one of the most GLBTQ supportive cities in the US. In a sector of the city yes. I lived in the area for awhile. Sometimes people put blinders on and can’t or don’t what to see what is right in front of them. This way they don’t have to deal with it. Then finally someone steps up and does something about it, because they can’t take it anymore. Cheers to those who stood up and fought for our rights and there’s too! Somewhat sorry for those who will lose their job in this. But who wants to be employed buy a business or origination such as this?

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:20pm
  30. GOOD!!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 10:17pm
  31. Good for the bar owner, sounds like petty reasons for banning people. There´s no way he could have pinned such minor things to a small group of patrons.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 10:50pm
  32. Good for the bar owner, sounds like petty reasons for banning people. There’s no way he could have pinned such minor things to a small group of patrons.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 10:50pm
  33. BAM! That ought to teach there discriminating asses!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 10:53pm
  34. Incredible ….I have always found Portland to be a very liberal and “live and let live” place

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:03pm
  35. I´m sure there are plenty of other ars in Portland. This one doesn´t deserve your patronage.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:28pm
  36. I’m sure there are plenty of other ars in Portland. This one doesn’t deserve your patronage.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:28pm
  37. um… wow?! wonder how many he will lose as a result of this posting? yay team. :)

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:40pm
  38. good….

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 12:59am
  39. GOOD!

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 1:14am
  40. Edwin – I honestly doubt he has almost half a million dollars in disposable income. The national average is about $200k annually not counting overhead costs, then you have to consider this bar is closer to the dive bar end of the sales spectrum, which is MUCH less than $200k… Some websites say the average salary for a bar owner is about $47k- http://www.simplyhired.com/salaries-k-bar-owner-jobs.html

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 1:32am
  41. GOOD I FEEL ITS NOT ENOUGH MYSELF

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 2:12am
  42. You people are the definition of racists. If I own a bar and I don´t want specific people to come in because I believe it hurts my business, it is my right to do so. You know why? Because it is MY bar.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 2:14am
  43. You people are the definition of racists. If I own a bar and I don’t want specific people to come in because I believe it hurts my business, it is my right to do so. You know why? Because it is MY bar.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 2:14am
  44. Shelly,it also depends on how much income the bar has incoming.Due to popularity and so on.But off that,im glad to see they got hit hard.Would it be better to be bankrupt or serve the entire community? i think the answer is pretty clear when your hit in the pocket book and since such treatment is against the law,it also teachs people to obey said law for said pocket book.such opinions/outlooks should stay at home where it doesnt effect you or anyone else

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 2:18am
  45. My wife is transgender she wouldnt step foot in a bar like that anyways

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 2:20am
  46. good one discrimination in Portland Oregon especially is disgusting

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 2:34am
  47. If a business is open to the public they can not discriminate this happened to a “christian” bakery near Pdx that refused to make a cake for a same sex wedding…..It´s not that hard business owners can either go private and have exclusive membership requirements or be open to the entire public…If not stiff penalties and lawsuits will follow.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 3:17am
  48. If a business is open to the public they can not discriminate this happened to a “christian” bakery near Pdx that refused to make a cake for a same sex wedding…..It’s not that hard business owners can either go private and have exclusive membership requirements or be open to the entire public…If not stiff penalties and lawsuits will follow.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 3:17am
  49. jerk

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 3:54am
  50. karma is a bitch

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 4:28am
  51. If only “karma” existed for everyone.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 4:50am
  52. @Chris, not in America (or most industrialized nations for that matter). We have laws that prevent you from discriminating on all sorts of grounds. Maybe a whites only or jew-free bar would be more profitable in some parts of the country. But as a society we agreed that we won´t allow that. Profit and protecting business owners are not the most important things for society to function which is why we limit them, even though it´s “your bar”

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 5:47am
  53. @Chris, not in America (or most industrialized nations for that matter). We have laws that prevent you from discriminating on all sorts of grounds. Maybe a whites only or jew-free bar would be more profitable in some parts of the country. But as a society we agreed that we won’t allow that. Profit and protecting business owners are not the most important things for society to function which is why we limit them, even though it’s “your bar”

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 5:47am
  54. Profit and protecting business owners are not the most important things for society to function which is why we limit them, even though it´s “your bar”. Agreed its for the people people not for the business.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:02am
  55. Profit and protecting business owners are not the most important things for society to function which is why we limit them, even though it’s “your bar”. Agreed its for the people people not for the business.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:02am
  56. @Chris You accused everyone here of being racist… please explain how you came to that conclusion. Also no one really gets to say any business is “mine”. All businesses are licensed by the state or locality they exist in. One thing about those licenses that people forget is that the state or locality is allowed to strip them of that license if they do not feel that business is operating for the common good of the area. In addition this is a bar so not only must they maintain a business license but also a liqueur license. So that´s two different control boards who get to review if they are acting in a way that reflects the overall ethic of the area. Yes businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone BUT if the reason for that refusal of service is discriminatory they can be fined or lose their license(s).

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:05am
  57. @Chris You accused everyone here of being racist… please explain how you came to that conclusion. Also no one really gets to say any business is “mine”. All businesses are licensed by the state or locality they exist in. One thing about those licenses that people forget is that the state or locality is allowed to strip them of that license if they do not feel that business is operating for the common good of the area. In addition this is a bar so not only must they maintain a business license but also a liqueur license. So that’s two different control boards who get to review if they are acting in a way that reflects the overall ethic of the area. Yes businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone BUT if the reason for that refusal of service is discriminatory they can be fined or lose their license(s).

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:05am
  58. Edwin: Having operated a bar for a portion of my adult life I can honestly say that not every bar is in the position to pay a fine like this and remain open. Many bars (and small businesses in general) live big night to big night. In my case every Friday night determined if we would be able to order liquor and make payroll for the next week. If we had been hit with a fine like this we could not have been able to remain open. Not saying that is a reason to reconsider the fine just tossing out some experience based facts.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:09am
  59. If I ever owned a bar/restaurant I would have a sign that reads “All are welcome, unless you´re an asshole, all assholes will be kicked out”.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:01am
  60. If I ever owned a bar/restaurant I would have a sign that reads “All are welcome, unless you’re an asshole, all assholes will be kicked out”.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:01am
  61. Chris Melidis: I don´t believe that you know what the word racist actually means. It´s kind of ironic that you then proceeded to say that business owners have a right to discriminate. And no, actually they don´t have a right to discriminate, it´s illegal.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:08am
  62. Chris Melidis: I don’t believe that you know what the word racist actually means. It’s kind of ironic that you then proceeded to say that business owners have a right to discriminate. And no, actually they don’t have a right to discriminate, it’s illegal.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:08am
  63. ^ Exactly and also the bar is *public* and they are required by law to follow it in order to serve the entire public.Only *private* businesses can serve certain people/places.If you do not want to serve the LGBT community then make sure your business is private and you wont have any worries.otherwise,best uphold the law,regardless of your views and what not.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:30am
  64. I open a private bar its a by pass to a lot of laws lol

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:34am
  65. Good I hope he goes bankrupt cause of his actions.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:45am
  66. Chris while it is your bar, you service is to the pubic and there is a criteria put in place on how one must conduct a business serving the public. If you wish to be narrow minded then by all means move your business to your basement. But if your serving the public serve them all equally face the consequences.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:52am
  67. This comment:

    “You people are the definition of racists. If I own a bar and I don´t want specific people to come in because I believe it hurts my business, it is my right to do so. You know why? Because it is MY bar.”

    Ah, the old “your intolerance of my bigotry makes YOU bigot!” argument – a laughable defence that is based in the false belief democracy grants you the right to be a bigot and freedom of speech absolves you from any consequences of your actions.

    Nope.

    The same constitution such types use to defend their right to be bigots actually contradicts their assumptions with the opening words, penned by Thomas Jefferson:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

    In short, you do not have the right to deny service to anyone based on your personal bigotry and ignorance. And calling you out on such a claim doesn´t make us bigots, it makes us people who will not accept your intolerance.

    And finally, Freedom of Speech doesn´t absolve you from the consequences of your words. In fact, it only protects you from the government restricting what you can say about the government.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 11:28am
  68. This comment:

    “You people are the definition of racists. If I own a bar and I don’t want specific people to come in because I believe it hurts my business, it is my right to do so. You know why? Because it is MY bar.”

    Ah, the old “your intolerance of my bigotry makes YOU bigot!” argument – a laughable defence that is based in the false belief democracy grants you the right to be a bigot and freedom of speech absolves you from any consequences of your actions.

    Nope.

    The same constitution such types use to defend their right to be bigots actually contradicts their assumptions with the opening words, penned by Thomas Jefferson:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

    In short, you do not have the right to deny service to anyone based on your personal bigotry and ignorance. And calling you out on such a claim doesn’t make us bigots, it makes us people who will not accept your intolerance.

    And finally, Freedom of Speech doesn’t absolve you from the consequences of your words. In fact, it only protects you from the government restricting what you can say about the government.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 11:28am
  69. Is that why black people had to pee out back? Karma is a yard away from you; get in your damn pickup and get to church.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 4:37pm
  70. That will prob. put him out of the biz. That is soooo sad. Really very very sad. WBC would be pleased and give them some business except being Baptist they don´t drink.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 5:03pm
  71. That will prob. put him out of the biz. That is soooo sad. Really very very sad. WBC would be pleased and give them some business except being Baptist they don’t drink.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 5:03pm
  72. I thought businesses were here to make money. What a crock.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:26pm
  73. WAS EASY TO LET THE T-GIRLS IN AND EVERYBODY COULD BE HAPPY….BAD CHOICE MR. OWNER

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:40pm
  74. Christian – Yes, his opinion should have stayed at home, but a fine this excessive does nothing but hurt the LGBT community in the end. The vast majority of people outside the community will look at this and see a group of transwomen saying “if you do something to hurt our feelings, we are going to ruin your life and the lives of your employees.” I live down the street from this bar, it isn’t the hottest spot in Portland by any means. What if his employees have children to feed? I mean really… A $10k fine would have been more than reasonable. It makes the point very clearly, but doesn’t ruin anyone’s life. This group of women have already found another bar to patronize without issue. The only thing that happened to them was their feelings were hurt. It wasn’t like the owner kicked them out in front of everyone. They made the issue public and while I don’t agree with the bar owner, I don’t think what happened to him was appropriate either. You can’t FORCE people to agree… Forceful behavior is always met with resistance. If the bar owner wants to push it, he could very easily spin this into his favor as the victim. What good does that do for anyone? Oh, we showed him. We ruined his life. Yeah, and now all of his customers and their friends, family, small business owners, Christians, anyone who tries to push the idea that the LGBT community is ruining America… All of them… Have ammo. Ruining businesses doesn’t teach anyone anything. It just pisses people off and our community is in the minority still. This was not a humble move and if we want respect, we need to pick our battles. Speak out against the injustice… But now there are multiple victims on each side. That doesn’t do anything but cause wars.

    Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 2:29am