Strip Club Teases Small Oregon City

"Come for the fishing, stay for the strip clubs."

This T-shirt slogan from Portland, Ore., pretty much sums up the current state of affairs in this environmentally conscious, granola-crunching bastion of the Northwest. Here, the number of per capita strip clubs -- where alcohol, full nudity and video gambling are all allowed under one roof -- is tops in the nation and growing.

It's all a result of the Oregon Supreme Court's liberal rulings on obscenity. Pornographic bookstores and nude dancers are considered protected free speech in Oregon, which many state residents defend vigorously.

But now, residents of one small city outside Portland are trying to draw a line with an uphill battle to keep one more strip club out of town.

Tualatin, which one protester described as a "Leave it to Beaver" community of about 25,000, is gyrating over a businessman's plan to open a Stars Cabaret, one of a chain of strip clubs catering to men.

Protesters like Jim Beriault, an eco-apparel salesman and father of three, say those opposing the club have nothing against sex or the Oregon Constitution, but that the proposed club location -- in a town hub, next to a fitness center, a children's gym and other family restaurants and businesses -- is "inappropriate."

"It will be right across the street from where we eat breakfast and ice cream," said Beriault, who founded the group CHANGE or Communities Helping All Neighbors Gain Empowerment.

Strip Clubs Have 'Free Reign'

"We live in a state that protects commercial industry above all others," he told "We don't have a lot of say. The [state] Supreme Court has given them free reign."

Randy Kaiser, who owns four Stars Cabaret clubs in Greater Portland and wants to open a Tualatin club in November, defends his constitutional right to run a lucrative business.

"Sex, like the old proverb, sells and there's always a market for it," Kaiser told "In good times, it thrives and in bad times it's an outlet for the mind to get off daily woes."

The sex industry boom started in the mid-1980s, following a series of Oregon Supreme Court decisions forbidding regulation of any speech on the basis of content. Strip clubs can operate in any commercial zone, regardless of local opposition.

Four previous attempts to change the state's two-decades-old law have failed.

Now the erotic epicenter of America, Portland has more than 50 strip clubs, about 7.4 per 100,000 residents, according to a 2005 report in Willamette Week. Even Las Vegas has fewer such clubs, with 5.8 per 100,000. Liberal San Francisco has only 2.2.

Portland itself promotes, in part, its reputation for sleaze as part of the funky, offbeat culture that thrives here, including a big indie-rock scene, legal medical marijuana and the nation's only "death with dignity" assisted suicide law.

One of the state's most popular bumper stickers is "Keep Oregon Weird," according to Jeff Miller, president and CEO of Travel Portland, a private, nonprofit visitors' bureau, which has a contract with the city.

"People come here to enjoy the outdoors, and we have a very green and sustainable state," Miller told "We have amazing pinot wines, micro brews and one of the hottest food scenes in the country. We also have our eccentricities."

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