IMAGE: Tom Martinez
Several neighbors of Portland’s new cannabis cafe met last weekend to talk about their worries.
But beyond a handful of complaints about the drifting scent of weed and the noise level at night, most of the frustration wasn’t directly tied to the new cafe for medical marijuana users only at 700 NE Dekum St.
Instead, the 17 Woodlawn community members sitting at the small feminist bookshop In Other Words were disappointed about the management of the cafe and the loss of the community space above it.
The cafe operates in a former restaurant called Rumpspankers, run by Eric Solomon and his wife, Shelly, for the past year and a half.
Above the space is the Village Ballroom. Resident Jan Clutter, a former Woodlawn Neighborhood Association president, said Solomon once promised that the ballroom space would host weekly movies with popcorn, neighborhood meetings, and even weddings.
But, Clutter said, Solomon “changed the whole demeanor” of the space in early 2008, putting blankets on the windows so passersby never knew when it was open, and advertising adult-themed parties.
Some say the cannabis cafe ends any hope of the ballroom’s use as a community space, mainly because the cafe entrance is upstairs and connected to the ballroom. The ballroom is one of the few community spaces for Woodlawn residents, and Clutter suggested the community “reclaim the building.”
Sponsors of events aren’t happy, either. Nolita Tejada, who hosted Fruitcake, a bimonthly LGBTQ dance party that regularly brought about 250 people to Rumpspankers, says she was told she could no longer host her bash there or upstairs at the more spacious ballroom because the cafe relinquished its liquor license to avert conflict with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
(Not surprisingly, the presence of the cannabis cafe means Narcotics Anonymous now meets elsewhere.)
Ryan Flegal, one of the owners of the building, told WW on Monday that the opening of the cannabis cafe surprised him, as it did surrounding neighbors. “There was a flier posted at the building” from the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Flegal says. “We called him [Eric Solomon] and said, ‘What’s going on?’”
Flegal says he and Solomon are still in discussions about the new cafe.
Eric Solomon did not return two phone messages left by WW seeking comment, nor did Oregon NORML’s executive director, Madeline Martinez.