Portland bar owner accused of telling gay patron to stay away

PORTLAND, Ore. - A North Portland bar owner is accused of leaving voicemails telling some customers to stay away because he doesn't want a reputation as a "gay bar."

As a result of the accusations, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is investigating the P Club on North Lombard Street.

P Club owner Chris Penner said he's waiting to receive the full complaint in the mail from BOLI, which states Penner left two messages on a customer's voicemail in June, telling them to stay away lest the bar get a reputation as a gay establishment.

The BOLI complaint said Penner's first voicemail said "I am going to have to ask for you 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 are in and it's hurting business a lot."

In the second voice message, the complaint states Penner said "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 (trans-sexual) 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."

The owner defended himself in an interview with KATU News.

"It's not true," Penner said. "We're not a homophobic bar by any means."

"Half my staff is lesbian and gay, so where this whole thing is coming from, I have no idea," Penner added.

Penner says the P Club has hosted same-sex wedding receptions, gay pride events and a weekly dance party directed toward the gay and lesbian community.

He says the discrimination allegation against him "kind of shocked all of us. My employees are kind of baffled by it. My customers find it kind of humorous because it's the farthest thing from the truth," Penner said.

Penner said he's still waiting to receive the full complaint from BOLI in the mail.

"I haven't seen it in full detail yet so I really can't talk about anything that I don't know what is all written there," Penner said about the BOLI complaint.

Penner cited his lawyer's advice when he said he would not address the specifics of the complaint.

"We're not a labeled bar," he added. "We're not a biker bar. We're not a country-western bar. We're not a gay bar. We're a neighborhood bar that's open to everybody."

Penner said his bar does kick people out but only if they're disrespectful, not because of their sexual orientation.

Officials at BOLI have so far not returned calls from KATU News.