The building at 3390 NE Sandy Blvd. appears from the outside to be an abandoned bar, still bearing the old sign of La Fortuna Mexican Restaurant and Night Club.
But inside, the dark, open space smells of freshly cut wood. A stage in mid-construction draws attention to the room's center.
That change is due to Tracy Doss, who began leasing the space in 2009 and initially said he would reopen it as a country-and-western bar with music and dancing as entertainment. But he decided in November to make it a strip club after he and his wife, Sherri, got angry over neighborhood complaints that the bar would attract too many people and disrupt residents when patrons spilled out.
And so despite strong opposition from the Laurelhurst neighborhood, Mynt Gentlemen's Club will open at the end of March. That comes after a fight that also roped in the Portland Police Bureau, which said brawls and other alcohol-related problems plagued a downtown club managed by Doss—Spyce Gentleman's Club.
Mynt foes' other concerns about Doss getting a liquor license included the presence nearby of a substance abuse treatment center and past problems at La Fortuna. They also cited complaints about an Ohio club Doss managed that had bear wrestling. Yes, bear wrestling.
Doss, 40, spoke with WW as Mynt prepares to open this month with mainly topless dancing and "high-end" food, plus the option of full-nude dancing and private rooms.
WW: Why did you decide to open the club in Laurelhurst?
Tracy Doss: I know the demographics of this location and its proximity to the freeway, and the fact that in this little corridor there really isn't something that provides this type of entertainment. You have Union Jacks downtown and then you have Pirate's Cove [at 74th & Sandy]. There really isn't anything that is commensurate to an upscale gentlemen's club for high-end adults from 35 to 55 to come and enjoy themselves in this type of environment…. The market goes where the market wants to go. And if you're good at it, then your customers want to go where places are good. And I think that we're very good at it. For the neighbors who don't like me, I hate to say it—there's probably a lot who will like us.
Why'd you switch from a country-and-western bar to a strip club?
I probably would've stuck with it. But my wife was pretty adamant about it [turning into a strip club]. She was really, really offended and upset how vehemently she was attacked [by members of the neighborhood association]...Sherri was like, "You know what, if they're going to be mad at me, I'm going to give them a good reason to be mad at me. I'm going to switch it into a strip club. If they're worried about 500 people leaving at once, I can change that. If they're worried about loud country music, I can change that. If they're worried about fights in the parking lot, I can change that. So, I will give them what they want: less people."
Do you regret your decision given the neighborhood backlash?
Would I say was it worth the 10-month fight? I would say no. But also, I'm a grown man, I'm an adult, you don't always get things your way, and you can't expect to do things subjectively and people to be happy about it.… At least these people could come together and, in battling me, they could have a stronger sense of community than they've ever had.
So, I've read you oversaw man vs. bear wrestling matches while managing a club in Ohio. How exactly does that work?
You pay $10 and you wrestled the bear. And if you pinned him, you'd get $1,000. But you couldn't do it. It was absolutely a joke. No one could pin that bear.
So the bear was declawed? Muzzled?
No. He had his claws, he had his teeth..… He was 9 feet, and 1,100 to 1,200 pounds. And all he would do is sit on one leg, sit on one side of his butt, and he would just turn around and then he would just whack at you, knock you down. Then he would kind of—I'm not kidding you—he would kinda chuckle and laugh, as he knocked you down. You would see the biggest men try to tackle him. And he would just kinda hook you and knock you down, and he'd hold you down. Sometimes he'd put his mouth on your face, and lick your face. It was so gross. But you were so helpless.
Let's say I wanted to be one of your dancers. What criteria would you use to judge me?
The first criteria is a no-brainer: Is the woman attractive enough to make herself money? And when I mean attractive, remember, I evaluate women maybe not particularly on what's attractive to me. I try to evaluate how they're going to be attractive overall to the public in general…. Women with personality sell more…you're selling the easiest product in the world: your company.