In this week's news section, I looked at the OLCC and city's method of cracking down on "problem bars"—that handful of bars whose liquor license the city asks the state not to renew because they have a "history of serious and persistent problems."

The case in point here is Cabaret, the strip club on NW 5th and Burnside which has had 36 serious incidents (including cocaine dealing, drunk driving, and numerous assaults and fights) over the past two years. The city has requested that the state yank Cabaret's license twice now, but the club has appealed and so far lives to poledance another day.

The consensus among commenters on the article seems to be that the city should leave bars the hell alone—even if they do succeed in yanking the Cabaret's license, all the troublemakers will just go to another bar. But for once I find myself agreeing with the OLCC (ack!). Point-counterpoint below the cut.

First, some very legitimate points from some commenters:


But, as much as I'm usually not in favor of bureaucrats telling anyone they can't do business, I think the city and OLCC are in the right on threatening the licenses of local bars that have a serious record of violent altercations.

• In these cases, it's clear that it's something about the environment in the bar that's causing trouble. Whether it's over-aggressive security, lax management, a habit of overserving, or most likely a mix of all of those, certain bars like Cabaret or Club 915 have laundry lists of violent problems that similar bars in similar locations (like Mary's Club) just aren't seeing. There are obviously ways to run bars well and ways to run bars that contribute to tension and violence, the people responsible for protecting public safety need some sort of punitive tool to force bars to shape up and act safely.

• Bars get chances to appeal and it doesn't appear as though the city is abusing its power in going after certain bars. Of all the places in Portland with liquor licenses, the OLCC has only threatened to yank 19 of those over the past two years and, of those, the city of Portland has only requested the OLCC yank three. All of those three bars have a legitimately scary track record of fights and assaults.

• Closing down dangerous bars could actually keep people safer in the future. I keep thinking about Club 915, which was involved in the deaths of two people last year. Before either of those people died, police documented 15 serious incidents at the bar. If the police or OLCC had shut down the bar, 22-year-old Mike Ellis would never have gone there, never have been denied reentry to back in grab his jacket, and likely never frozen to death in Waterfront Park.