The latest stop in Merritt Paulson's search for a new minor league baseball stadium may kill a Beaverton nightclub that has Latinos lining up out the door on weekend nights.
By day, the Blue Iguana appears to be a family-owned Mexican restaurant. But everything changes after 9:30 pm, if a recent Friday night visit is any indication.
As much of sleepy Beaverton shuts down for the night, the Blue Iguana's neon sign lights up Southwest Cedar Hills Boulevard. Large men in dark clothing block the club's doorway. "I need to pat the guys down to check for weapons," one says. "The ladies can just go in."
Past the first set of glass doors, a woman behind a ticket counter says, "Twenty-five dollars, por favor. " Inside a second set of glass doors is a large room with a bar and two dance floors (one of them elevated) where couples grind to pounding music.
Most of the men are wearing cowboy hats, tight denim pants and cowboy boots. The women wear high heels and very tight everything. At 1 am, many people are just starting to arrive at the Blue Iguana, which stays open until 3 am.
How could Paulson's quest for a new ballpark kill the Blue Iguana? The restaurant and nightclub is one of nearly 70 small businesses renting space on property around the now-defunct Westgate Theater. The site is owned by the Biggi family, a major landowner in Beaverton and the principal in an 80-year-old horseradish- and mustard-making business.
Beaverton officials have identified the Biggis' location as a possible home for a ballpark, now that Paulson's baseball options in Portland appear dead. The deal he made to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to PGE Park in 2011 precludes the downtown stadium's dual use for soccer and baseball.
The Biggi family says it doesn't want to sell. "We're not too excited about getting condemned," says Domonic Biggi.
And Ramiro Rodriguez, who runs the Blue Iguana with his parents and five siblings, is just as worried about that prospect.
"It cost us close to $400,000 when we went into that building" more than two years ago, Rodriguez says.
Other renters at Biggi Properties' buildings off Cedar Hills Boulevard include nonprofits and daycare and physical fitness businesses.
It's a safe bet none of them features a MySpace page (myspace.com/iguanaazul503) like the Blue Iguana's, with Latino music videos and pictures of thong-wearing women to tease the club's "Miss Colita" ("Miss Tail") contest. (As of Aug. 31, the page had 1,494 friends.)
Rodriguez, whose family owns two similar nightclubs in Salem, is proud the Iguana has proven such a popular draw. He ascribes its success to its ability to attract internationally known musicians who play salsa, merengue and regional Mexican music, as well as the Portland-area customer base for the older Salem clubs.
"We've been pretty busy, even with the slowdown in the economy," says Rodriguez, 35.
Rodriguez says he's a baseball fan, following the Los Angeles Dodgers since growing up in Southern California. He wouldn't mind seeing a stadium in Beaverton, just not at the expense of the restaurant and nightclub his family has built.
"I don't want them taking me out," Rodriguez says. "I still have a 12 1/2-year lease."
The Blue Iguana has had its problems. OLCC records from June 2007 to May 2008 show the club received police warnings alleging fighting and even a shooting.