April 12, 2012 in Features, Smitty in the City by

How the Police Killed the Beauty Bar

Had you asked me a week ago where to go dancing on a Saturday night, I probably would have told you to swing by Beauty Bar… but only if I liked you. A trendy dual-level bar tucked in a historic building just east of the cluster of clubs that surround the legendary Voodoo Donuts, Portland’s version of the popular chain used a simple formula to attract patrons: Martini & Manicure Happy Hours to get the women in the door + dope DJs to keep them dancing = Men who know will come spend money. Can’t argue with math right?

The key to this plan (aside from sanitizing the manicure equipment) was luring beautiful women and securing dope DJs. Enter the promoter, Chase Freeman. In Spring 2010, the skinny tattooed veteran with the obvious Atlanta drawl was still new to the Northwest. A bit of a nomad himself, he didn’t care much about what people were listening to locally; instead, he just brought in music that was sure to make them dance. The branding was clever, retro, classy. Words like “rap” and “hip-hop” were never used. His parties (Fa$t Life, Crew Love, Off Brand, Jet Set PDX) not only brought in some great DJs from abroad but also provided regular work for a variety of Portland party DJs including Doc Adam, Danny Merkury, DJ Juggernaut, Nick Dean, DJ Nature, Slim Kid Tre (of the Pharcyde), DJ 3X, and DJ Swervewon to name just a few. Chip became a legendary bartender. Everyone brought their fans, and everyone got along… Until the police showed up.

On Tuesday, April 3rd, Chase was told to cancel all of his parties and the bar closed. As of right now, the Facebook page has no upcoming events but says they will reopen Wednesday. So what happened? Was there a brawl? Did somebody get murked in a nearby alley? Gang activity? Drug dealing? Prostitution? What happened? I wondered, so I caught up with Chase to find out what the hell was going on. What happened to the fun place where pretty girls danced to trap music? I was surprised when he gave me the half-smirk and said, “Capacity violations”.

“How many?”


“Get the f— out of here, you’re kidding.”

“I couldn’t make this up.”

After nearly two years of being somewhat of a hidden gem, Beauty Bar’s popularity just recently took off. On March 16th, local rap dude Tope threw his album release show after-party in conjunction with Jet Set. Though I was unable to attend, the buzz for the party was strong and I definitely heard from reputable sources that it went hard. The following week, with no history of neighbor complaints, violence or over-serving, Beauty Bar was under scrutiny from the fuzz and picked up a capacity violation on March 24th at the DJ Juggernaut showcase. Beauty Bar took police recommendations to avoid future violations, and the following Saturday, the line was held to avoid further infractions (see picture above). But that wasn’t enough. The police later reported to Beauty Bar management that they observed Chase letting people in while they were at capacity. They also warned that they “can’t let these promoters run the show.” Chase’s events were summarily suspended indefinitely.

So the question remains… What happened? Now that we know how it got shut down, I still wonder why it got shut down; that is, why are the police hanging off-strip to count the people at a small dance club? Some hypothesize racial motives. Others point to the city’s documented opposition to hip-hop music. When I asked Chase, he just shrugged his shoulders. He seemed perplexed that he was isolated from the team after being such a core piece over the last two years. Hurt that he was given up so quickly as the sacrificial lamb when the cops came knocking. He didn’t want to assume any motives, preferring that the people decide for themselves what they see occurring. Fair enough.

Asked what’s next, Chase laughed and responded that that he’s got something new up his sleeve. He briefly discussed an exclusive, recurring event (which he and his friend jokingly code-named “Chutes & Ladders”) and promised me more information soon. Well then… Maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll let you know too.

Till then,

Mac Smiff

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  • Portland PD, SUX!

  • Underage girls with fake IDs at a dubstep party are fine, just don’t play any hip hop!

    Thanks Portland PD for ruining something rad. Big up to Chase, the bar staff & all the other DJs for all the good times the past year+

    • Ryan

      Straight up

  • seriously? we all know that hip hop is the heart of every real problem in portland.

    I’m glad the police have their priorities straight.


  • whosya10

    Just curious of either of you happen to white?…and are you republicans?

  • still very curious to know exactly what’s going on with this issue in Portland this time around. easy to point fingers, hard to know exactly what the deal is or take much action.

    definitely interested to hear any more about this, guys! good post.

    • 3X

      Bottom line. As a Bouncer and DJ, I have had the pleasure of working at all kinds of clubs, American Cowgirls, Ibiza, Bar 84, Blue Iguana, Grand Central, YoLo, Etc.. but I have noticed if the club deals with more with a percentage of over 20% in “Black People” they are harassed. to the point of fines and closures. Its the same at all the clubs I’ve worked at. For instance the police had to shut MLK down for a MMA fighting and inside and outside the club at American Cowgirls. Yet at bar 84 somebody had a fight down the street and we got blamed for it. Grand Central had a bouncer killed at the frond door on camera they closed for a day or 2. Seeznins had someone killed across the street and could only open for a few hours a day. Portland makes it hard for the black community here. I am from Florida and the redneck part at that. but i can still run a business and have to deal with the same laws as my white counterparts. Here the white community has a different set of laws from the black community. Sorry to say!

      • Rip Rutledge

        I’m with 3X on this one; I’m from the South, too, but this set up seemed to be a tastefully run establishment catering to just the crowd they said they were trying to reach. And, they seemed to be successful at it. That has got to mean bucks into the citty coffers, and giving this certain group a great place to go and enjoy each other in what seems to have been a great environment. Got to be something else going on.

  • DreCut

    I’m a party promoter in Portland also…. The Portland police are shutting down all hiphop events, club/bars or venues that promote anything with hip hop or rap. After talking to a police officer, he stated that Portland police have a no tolerance policy with hip hop. This is why every event that has hip hop as the main focus they are going to come and find reasons to shut them down. The police stand outside and make random checks to make any party situation uncomfortable.

  • John

    So stupid, Portland is finally getting FUN hip hop nights that aren’t split along color lines and now they wanna break shit up?

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