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Author Topic: Oregon bar owner fined $400,000 for discriminating against transgender customers  (Read 6916 times)

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Offline Blythe

@Ephiral ~ If an owner has a chance to think about it might go the politically correct way and if it's pointed out in a non-confrontational way without name calling they might be more inclined to respond favorably.  Of course, there will probably be the radical out there who will still call it racist because only gypsies are seen wearing that type of clothing.

As people who have felt discriminated against gain more freedoms and privileges heretofore denied them they have to remember their responsibility to co-exist in the world around them rather than be the group now forcing cultures and ideologies on others.

I thought I might address this point in a way that Ephiral did not. I am not sure "ideology" applies when referring to trans* people in this instance, any more than it applies to any separate group of people seeking basic rights. In a way, does it all not just fall under civil rights issues?

The term "ideology" implies that the T-girls were making some sort of political statement or furthering a culture, but they were not, you see. They merely wanted to frequent a bar they had been known for frequenting, which is just a basic right all of us feel we should have, the right to offer our patronage to businesses, so long as our behavior is appropriate. I didn't see anywhere in the article (or links the articles provided) that stated the T-girls were acting up or being upsetting. So they were denied a basic right because they were trans*, which I do genuinely feel would be discrimination.

My issue is that as groups gain freedom of expression and other privileges some seem to think the world owes them something beyond the basic respect and freedoms we all deserve. 

But....isn't this issue about basic respect, BeMi? About trans* girls having the same access to businesses regardless of their trans* status? Could you explain how this is beyond a basic right and freedom?
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 05:43:26 PM by Blythe »

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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For clarification purposes only:  The word ideology is not - I repeat not - used in relation to any person in a trans category.  It is merely part of a laundry list of things.  Politics could be included as could belief in extraterrestrials or life on Mars.  It is merely an example of areas in which groups of people are gaining recognition and some are expecting others to now take the back seat they were relegated to.  I have never - repeat never - felt that any type of gender preference was an ideology.  I also don't see it as a culture which is another word I used above.

People are people and I respect everything about them whether they respect me or not. 

Offline Formless

Regarding the original topic. I do not find it fair how they treated the bar owner. It seems he only acted that way after a whole year. Clearly it was to save his business.

Now Ephiral. Allow me to ask you this question and perhaps you may see the reason behind the bar owner's act.

Let us say he never contacted one of the T-girls. And he went on until his sales crippled and he can no longer manage the business , while he was fully aware that most of his regular customers went to another place because they had the idea that it was a ' tranny bar ' ( Not my choice of words but borrowing the source's terminology ). It was not the T girl's fault obviously. Because they could easily find another place to stay at. But what about the bar owner who clearly runs the business to bring food on the table? He is a victim. But the source of the problem does not lay in him or the T girls. But the society. So , why should he be punished for that? Would you , Ephiral , wishes for someone's loss? He asked them politely , and he served them for a whole year without any complaints. That says alot about his hospitality to everyone without any discrimination until it started to affect his own income.

Imagine running your own business , and while it went well for two years , your income started declining for no apparent reason in the third year. Once you ask around , most people who ' used ' to attend your place told you that there's X person/group who attend your place and they don't feel comfortable being around them. And not only one ex-customer , but most of your ex-customers told you the same thing. You either close your place , or as that x person/group to leave.

You can control your actions. But we cannot change everyone's mentality.

Offline Slywyn

Reading the story itself, he didn't ask them to leave because he was losing business. He asked them to leave because his bar was beginning to get the 'rep' I guess would be the right word, as either a) a trans* bar, or b) a gay bar.

And rather than be seen as either of those things, he's asking them not to come back so they can go back to being a 'normal' bar.

If you were going to ask someone to leave because they were harming your business you'd do it immediately, you wouldn't wait an entire year, and more emphasis would be on the fact that he's losing business. He doesn't even say "everyone stopped coming", he said "People stopped coming on friday night". One night a week is hardly going to send a business into the red.

To me it seems like he sent them away just because they were "The T-Girls" and he didn't want them in his bar, not because of any effect they were actually having.

Offline Kythia

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Check this one Sylywyn.  It seems he presented evidence that sales were going down (on a Friday night - which isn't just "one night a week" it's "one of the two crucial nights for a bar"

Offline Slywyn

I still think there isn't really a way to prove that they were the cause of the decline, and there isn't really any proof given. Just "between January and June sales went down". There's no way to back up that they were the ones causing the decline(At least none that I see mentioned), and it can be written off as coincidence without anything to really prove it.

Offline Blythe

Check this one Sylywyn.  It seems he presented evidence that sales were going down (on a Friday night - which isn't just "one night a week" it's "one of the two crucial nights for a bar"

Hmmmm, that article is fascinating....the T-girls were coming in for four years, not one year, apparently?

Quote
He pointed out that Penner had let them in his bar for four years without incident.

But how does he know it was only the T-girls' presence that was supposedly dropping his sales on Fridays? There are a myriad of factors that go into running a successful bar and pulling in the weekend crowd. 4 years is....a lot longer than one year.

I feel like I do not know enough about the history of the bar and its sales now, which would be really useful to this discussion.  :-X

Offline Slywyn

Hmmmm, that article is fascinating....the T-girls were coming in for four years, not one year, apparently?

But how does he know it was only the T-girls' presence that was supposedly dropping his sales on Fridays? There are a myriad of factors that go into running a successful bar and pulling in the weekend crowd. 4 years is....a lot longer than one year.

I feel like I do not know enough about the history of the bar and its sales now, which would be really useful to this discussion.  :-X

If they really have been coming in for four years, then I think his excuse of decline of sales is bogus. You would have noticed a decline long before the four years was up, and there are many other factors that can cause a decline in a bar.

Offline gaggedLouise

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It's hard to know just how, in what manner, they would have been making other customers feel troubled. I am not saying that in the sense that 'it's just bullshit, it's quite unlikely that they could have had an adverse effect by acting in some way', I do mean we don't know because neither the manager nor the T-girl group is going to address it. Nor does the Huff Post. It's part of journalistic practice that a paper or a news outlet refrains from detail about this kind of thing. But the fact that the manager knew Cass's home phone number suggests to me that he had been discussing with that group, and with her, a couple times, and that he (and some of his customers?) may have felt they were acting up, taking too much of a space, using the bar as their arena, or even inviting too many gay buddies, outside of the group proper, to come around - and forcing others more or less into the role of spectators. On Friday nights at least, but friday nights are a peak time for any bar owner and it's also the time many people choose to check out a new bar where they haven't been before.

How much place somebody is taking, or grabbing, or being offered, in any kind of informal public place is often about unspoken deals, settlements that aren't made with lawyers, and about mutual respect to avoid open conflicts and tantrums. I think that was what BeMi was on to with saying "a group can claim basic respect", the respect everybody else gets, but it's a different ball park if they start to act like everybody owes them a lot just for being open about what they are, like "you owe me respect and affection just because I am proud of who I am".
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 06:37:18 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Kythia

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If they really have been coming in for four years, then I think his excuse of decline of sales is bogus. You would have noticed a decline long before the four years was up, and there are many other factors that can cause a decline in a bar.

From the language of the article the decline in sales is a given, just not something the law concerns itself with -

Quote
The P Club’s decline in Friday night sales between January 2011 and June 2012 is not a defense, and no evidence was presented to show that the T-Girls had caused any other problems at the P Club that might have justified Penner’s decision to ask them not to return on Friday nights,” deputy labor commissioner Christie Hammond wrote in her findings on the case.

 - though, yes, there may well be other factors. 

Online Neysha

It's the bar owners fault for operating a small business and not expecting to drown in some sort of regulation. :P

Offline Blythe

But the fact that the manager knew Cass's home phone number suggests to me that he had been discussing with that group, and with her, a couple times, and that he (and some of his customers?) may have felt they were acting up, taking too much of a space, using the bar as their arena and forcing others more or less into the role of spectators.

I'm not sure that knowing Cass' home phone number suggests that. I think that only suggests that the bar owner frequently communicated with at least one of the T-girls--the article only states that there was dialogue that happened, but....with no mention of what the dialogue is, inferring or assuming the topic might not get us anywhere.

I mean, they were there for four years. It's possible that the bar owner was friendly and initially making accommodations for the girls....but again, we don't actually know that.

It's hard to know just how, in what manner, they would have been making other customers feel troubled. I am not saying that in the sense that 'it's just bullshit, it's quite unlikely that they could have had an adverse effect by acting in some way', I do mean we don't know because neither the manager nor the T-girl group is going to address it. Nor does the Huff Post. It's part of journalistic practice that a paper or a news outlet refrains from detail about this kind of thing.

This part of your post does sum up how I feel on things.

EDIT: Because if we don't know if/how they were affecting business, claiming they were is wrong.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 06:37:40 PM by Blythe »

Offline Formless

It's the bar owners fault for operating a small business and not expecting to drown in some sort of regulation. :P

You have no idea how true that is.

Offline kylie

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     That thing I said, "There's nothing about being trans that makes demands on other people's orientation."  I'm not changing my argument, but I can see how people may see trans as a threat to their orientation.  Or gender for that matter!  (I suppose this can be called a form of cultural or personal insecurity.)  So I'm going to try to be gracious and stretch that out and play with it a little.  Though...  Point remains, that this is not a good defense for the owner. 

     I've only seen a couple articles and I don't know what 'flavor' of trans these gals are, that is assuming they each have relatively consistent styles from day to day or for when they go out to places like this bar, whatever it is like there.  For all I know, one of them might look like a geeky tomboy and another might look like a classic blonde Barbie doll.  Just as likely, if not more, they're a lot more "average" than that in many ways -- at least if people outside their circle are actually looking for anything "normal" when they scrutinize, I mean after they have done the common double take and picked up "oh, hmm, trans." 

      The thing is, whether it's because they are scrutinized and talked about by others or because they talk about gender and maybe pick at it among themselves or with others....  Trans often end up showing other people things about gender they aren't comfortable with.  Sometimes these are sexual details of many kinds, and sometimes they could logically be about where so many different gender options lie and how they work.  But many people have been trained to file much of gender questions under "sexuality" also...  And you know how "well, okay, that's potentially also involving some sexual choices" can often become "oh, c'mon it's always about sex" for anyone else you meet when they aren't completely on the same page.  And this brings us to situations like the owner saying "not a gay bar" etc.

      Getting to the point, I wonder if the trans girls bothered someone merely by speaking about being trans or about topics like how cis or straight people think, or perhaps even "how I used to think about sex/girls before I became out as trans" etc. etc.  I mean, these are things that can make cis and very heteronormative people uncomfortable, because they sometimes really expose or make fun of how the traditions of "straight" are often put together.  And then you have some girls -- in a group, now! -- who may or may not pass in so many ways, sometimes being checked even more closely than other women. 

      So I'm not denying that some people may get uncomfortable around trans.  But so what...  I get uncomfortable myself around some Black people, but I don't think that means the owners should chase them all away simply because I am bombarded with stereotypes in the media, and I don't know heads or tails about where they came from or what their way of speaking means. 

As to ideology, being trans and sitting in a bar is not an active billboard waving protest any more than being vegan, or being Black, or wearing Nikes, or that cis guy talking about his girlfriend(s), or whoever talking about Edward Snowden with any given person in the bar.  If you make living or speaking about trans out to be ideology, then the only question is, "Well, where does freedom of speech end for everyone at some point that others can't stand it or will blow up and wreck the place?  Does every group have to declare its own private, exclusive venue and fund it in order to go out, so there will be no publicly open areas, until they break down to the smallest possible units and damn the economics of scale or any notions of a public commons?" 

As far as sexuality...  The trans being there, whether with many gender curiosities or few visible or audible, are not "imposing" an orientation on anyone any more than the state allowing same-sex marriage is forcing anyone to have a same-sex partner (let alone to marry one)...  But oh, some are apparently so upset that they can't control themselves around trans?? What!    Well, this is nothing new I suppose.  A good few men apparently think women in general are responsible for most of their rapes, too...

Finally, what an impossible thing to police anyway -- gender!  Some women have big arm and chin bones or small or no breasts -- who knows at a glance, if they are trans or not?  Should they all be thrown out so that the owners can show they have done their best to eject everyone who might be trans?  (Or were they going to require a show of birth certificates at the door to confirm original, relative penis length?)  I don't think so. 

 ...........  I just think these are all inappropriate things to be targeting people over in an open to the public establishment. 

Maybe there is another category for membership only establishments that have limited access based on demographics somehow, I'm not sure.  If they are legal, then I think even those would have to establish their rules openly and periodically through some formal process --- not a targeted, private phone message to previously accepted customers.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 06:52:43 PM by kylie »

Offline Florence

I personally think it is bullshit. If it is his business, he has the right to serve those who wishes and deny service to others.

DO I agree with discrimination? No, but his business, let him run it as he wishes.

The problem is if we allow everyone to do this, we wind up with segregation all over again. Sure, I would HOPE that peoples intelligence would make them realize that more costumers = more money, and that their love of money would overpower their hate of people, but... If I've learned anything its to never bet all your chips on "people being smart or kind".

His reasoning that its hurting his business is in my opinion pretty flimsy. People think its a tranny bar or a gay bar? Put out a friggan sign in the front "Everyone's welcome" or something (I'm not a professional sign designer, sue me :U). But lets assume that this problem can't be rectified, that this IS costing him money and thus my above point of people valuing money above hatred would be invalid. Then that's exactly why we can't allow stuff this. Because if its bad for HIS business, it'll be bad for everyone else's; and they'll find themselves banned from every bar in the area.

Oh, of course, they'll get 'tranny bars' and 'gay bars', but if they shouldn't NEED special bars of their own. I feel sorry for him if he's losing business, but maybe he should think of better ways to handle it than banning people for being themselves.

NOW, if he explicitly said that they were being disruptive, unruly, causing trouble, that's one thing. But from what I'm seeing, people weren't coming because they're transgender.

THOUGH... I do wish they'd found a way to resolve this without suing him, as if he's resorted to banning regulars, I'm assuming he can't really afford the loss. And in all honesty, as I've said before I do feel bad for the guy. I wish people weren't so idiotic that he even had to consider this course of action, let alone decide to take it; and frankly, I DO hope he can find another way to stay in business.

And I find the idea of straight people being banned from a place that Beguile's Mistress mentioned just as bad. We need to promote a culture or unity, not... this group goes her and that group goes there. And as stated before the mentions of bikers and gypsies aren't really a good comparison.

Tl;dr version: Its a shitty situation for everyone, but banning these girls for being trans just isn't an acceptable way to handle the problem, in my opinion.

Offline Geil

A key phrase just popped into my head that sums up what I think about this situation.

Even assuming the the bar owner's assertions were true, it's subtly incorrect to say the T-Girls' presence was causing the drop in takings and eventually potentially putting him out of business; it was the other customers' absence. There was a wrong being done, but it was being done upon the owner, by the general public's transphobia. Barring the T-Girls was a second wrong.

Two wrongs don't make a right.

Offline Ephiral

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...okay, going to try to reenter this conversation.

But you still think the laws, as applied in this case, are a good idea?  That even without any mens rea he can be found guilty?  Strict liability like, I dunno, speeding?
If they serve the end goal of reducing discrimination and maybe making people think about the discriminatory implication of their acts, then yes, I do. There's some argument to be had about the size of the fine, but that's a distinct matter.

Now Ephiral. Allow me to ask you this question and perhaps you may see the reason behind the bar owner's act.

Oh, I absolutely see the reason. I'd be frustrated if my business's sales went down for a year and a half. But I wouldn't be blaming guests for a problem that started over two years after they started coming. I note that the only evidence he appears to have offered the investigation was the declining sales - where are the customers' opinions that he claimed drove his decision in the voicemail?

Relevant to the discussion: It appears that the problem was not solved by getting rid of these people - they still needed to completely rebrand the place. Best date I can put on this is nine months after this incident. A quick review of the Yelp page shows a number of low-star reviews unrelated to this issue - "too big for its own good", "boring", and "hostile clientele" show up. At least one review which defends this action goes on to give the place two stars because of the hostile clientele. So... maybe the problem wasn't the trans people, but the actively hostile clientele? Maybe the bar owner seizing on the trans people as the "obvious" reason people weren't coming back was wrong?

Offline gaggedLouise

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Let's say we had a women's clothing store that refused to sell anything to men (except gifted lingerie for their partners) or to TVs/TGs (non-operated). I would say it was a truly daft policy, perhaps even expressing dumb or transphobic atitudes from the owners, but it would be useless to try to take them to court, or to a market watchdog. If their assistants were instructed to just say to every male or trans customer "Sorry, you're in the wrong shop" or "This department doesn't carry what you're after, Sir. Men's clothing is over there, across the aisle, Thank you!" and avoided to get pulled into any discussion about why I was after a skirt, then they would be simpletons, yes, but there would be no point in trying to press it. If they really felt they didn't want any trans customers, and repelled us like that, well, game over, but there would be no point in claiming they were breaking the law.

Offline Ephiral

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Let's say we had a women's clothing store that refused to sell anything to men (except gifted lingerie for their partners) or to TVs/TGs (non-operated). I would say it was a truly daft policy, perhaps even expressing dumb or transphobic atitudes from the owners, but it would be useless to try to take them to court, or to a market watchdog. If their assistants were instructed to just say to every male or trans customer "Sorry, you're in the wrong shop" or "This department doesn't carry what you're after, Sir. Men's clothing is over there, across the aisle, Thank you!" and avoided to get pulled into any discussion about why I was after a skirt, then they would be simpletons, yes, but there would be no point in trying to press it. If they really felt they didn't want any trans customers, and repelled us like that, well, game over, but there would be no point in claiming they were breaking the law.
Um. You do realise that Oregon has a law explicitly covering this?

Online Neysha

Relevant to the discussion: It appears that the problem was not solved by getting rid of these people - they still needed to completely rebrand the place. Best date I can put on this is nine months after this incident. A quick review of the Yelp page shows a number of low-star reviews unrelated to this issue - "too big for its own good", "boring", and "hostile clientele" show up. At least one review which defends this action goes on to give the place two stars because of the hostile clientele. So... maybe the problem wasn't the trans people, but the actively hostile clientele? Maybe the bar owner seizing on the trans people as the "obvious" reason people weren't coming back was wrong?

Where did you find those Yelp reviews?

Offline Kythia

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...okay, going to try to reenter this conversation.
If they serve the end goal of reducing discrimination and maybe making people think about the discriminatory implication of their acts, then yes, I do.

Meh, I disagree.  In the most unhelpful statement ever made by anybody you should read a book I read once the name of which I can't remember.  It talked about how a load of problems in the US are caused by using legislation to settle social issues (your comment on page one about this debate being "settled in the 60s" reminded me of it) rather than a consensus being found.  But I can barely recall the details, just that reading it it seemed to make sense.

It was really interesting.  It was by some guy, and it had pages.  And a cover, IIRC.  Ask in your local bookshop, I'm sure they'll know it. 

Quote
Oh, I absolutely see the reason. I'd be frustrated if my business's sales went down for a year and a half. But I wouldn't be blaming guests for a problem that started over two years after they started coming. I note that the only evidence he appears to have offered the investigation was the declining sales - where are the customers' opinions that he claimed drove his decision in the voicemail?

Well, as Louise pointed about above its pretty standard for stuff like that not to be included in a newspaper article.    The key point, to me, is that they had been coming in so long.  Why would he wake up one morning and blame them for problems - which seems to be what you're suggesting.  Isn't it rather more likely that he looked for the cause and discovered it was them (or, as Geil rightly points out, society's transphobia)

Offline gaggedLouise

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Um. You do realise that Oregon has a law explicitly covering this?
'
I think Sweden has a roughly similar law, and AFAIK most women's clothing stores these days are happy to do business with transvestites and transwomen, at least in larger cities. But refusing to sell (or help find the right kind of) a skirt or a silky blouse to someone at a store of a kind that has traditionally been catering to only bio women doesn't really equal "denying this person the right to their gender identity" in the larger world. It only means you have to look up another shop, and most of these do serve TG customers. I really don't think this would be actionable.

Offline Blythe

Where did you find those Yelp reviews?

Isn't that Yelp page you linked under the new name, not the old name (wouldn't the old one have the reviews?...)?  ??? There are two pages for the club--one under the new name and one under the old. The old one has the reviews.....I think. I'm not sure.

Offline Ephiral

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Where did you find those Yelp reviews?
Under their original name, while trying to nail down the name change. You can do it yourself by Googling "P-club twilight room annex" - it's the third hit, right below the news results.

A modified query got me better results - the name change was three months after the incident, and was part of a complete restructuring of the entire place. Again, indicative that this was not the issue.

Online Neysha

In my search for Yelp (or any other) reviews on the business, I found this local article on the situation.

Quote from: The Oregonian
The group, the Rose City T-Girls, had frequented the bar every Friday night for two years. They brought anywhere from a dozen to 40 people -- some who crossdress, others who have fully transitioned to female -- into the cavernous club each week. But their presence drove other customers away, Penner said.

Quote from: The Oregonian
Penner insists he's neither homophobic nor anti-transgender people. He once hosted a weekly queer dance night in the space, and on Wednesday nights a gay pool team practices in the bar.

But a year ago, he said, he started hearing complaints about the T-Girls. Other customers said they left the stall doors open and seats up in the women's restrooms.

"Most are in-the-closet, straight men, but they're using the women's restrooms," he said. "They feel they have a right to use those restrooms because on Friday nights, they are women."

Quote from: The Oregonian
Penner wanted to ask the T-Girls to leave the bar a year ago, he said. But Cindy Benton, his bar manager, told him he couldn't do that, said Penner, noting she, "by the way, is a lesbian and having her wedding reception here next year."

After another year of decline in customers, he asked a bartender for a phone number for Cassandra Lynn, one of the T-Girls. Then, while vacationing, he left the message for the T-Girls.

Quote from: The Oregonian
He once dreamed of owning a Grocery Outlet, so he sold the bar in 2005. He returned to run the Portsmouth Club when Dustin Drago, the man he sold the club to, defaulted on payments and left town. That, too, caused a fight with the state.

The labor bureau said Penner owed $7,000 in back wages that Drago never paid employees. Penner appealed the agency's ruling, though, and in May the Court of Appeals agreed that he could not be held liable for Drago's failure to pay.

Penner believes that commissioner Avakian holds a grudge against him for winning the appeal. That, Penner says, is why Avakian issued a complaint himself on behalf of the T-Girls.

"It's pretty coincidental, honestly," said Estabrook, the labor bureau official. "That and this investigation have nothing to do with each other."

And the most current story on the case from the same website:


Quote from: The Oregonian
Penner last year said he is neither homophobic nor anti-transgender people. He once hosted a weekly queer dance night 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.

Penner said business had declined since the T-girls started coming to the bar. Between eight and 54 T-Girls came in on Friday nights. But all other P Club customers stopped coming, Penner said. In 2009, the bar sold a total of $110,000 in drinks on Friday nights, Penner said. By 2012, that dropped to $81,000.

"We said at the hearing he was an idiot when he said that," said Jonathan Radmacher, Penner's lawyer. "But he has a track record of decades of being supportive of the LGBT community.

Conversely...

Quote from: The Oregonian
Lynn testified at a hearing before an administrative law judge that she could not sleep in the months after Penner's voicemail. She was irritable at work and considered disbanding the group. Other girls said they stopped going out in public as women. They pulled away from friends, showed up late to work and gained weight.

Quote from: The Oregonian
Investigators found no evidence to support Penner's contention that the T-Girls disrupted business. In October, investigators announced that the bureau found substantial evidence of discrimination against the transgender patrons. The bureau then tried to reach a settlement with Penner. When no settlement could be reached, Avakian said, and he took the case to a hearing.

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

Penner's lawyer said his client was not surprised by BOLI's decision; it was Avakian who brought the complaint, and Avakian's deputy who affirmed it.

I love local politics. If I ever wanted to become a member of organized crime, I'd of become a local politician :P