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”.
“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.