A contract dispute over a downtown nude-dancing parlor has led to allegations against the owner of several Portland-area erotic shops.
Centerfold Suites, on the third floor above Dante's on West Burnside Street, sells private, half-hour sessions with a female "model" for $100 plus tips.
"We work for tips," said a model who answered the door there on a recent Sunday evening. "The better the tip, the better the show."
Centerfold Suites is now the subject of a breach-of-contract complaint filed May 3 in Multnomah County Circuit Court by Kelly Jain, a newcomer to the so-called "lingerie shop" business that has proliferated around the Portland area in recent years.
Lingerie shops have made news this spring, with state lawmakers trying to rein in what they call a nuisance industry (see "Jack Shack Attack," WW, March 30, 2011). State Sen. Mark Hass (D-Raleigh Hills) says those efforts to let local governments control the spread of live nude-entertainment businesses are stalled in committee.
Now, claims that Jain makes in court documents allege high drama inside what critics describe as one of Oregon's seediest industries.
Jain, a computer technician from Clackamas County, says he made a deal in February to buy Centerfold Suites from Ben Cunningham, a hog farmer from McMinnville.
Besides running Northwest Heritage Pork, Cunningham also owns three Pussycats lingerie shops in Portland and one in Salem. The Pussycats on Northeast 82nd Avenue advertises "rubdowns" and "shower shows."
According to Jain, Cunningham agreed to sell Centerfold Suites to Jain for $5,000 plus an agreement that Jain would pay off a $20,000 debt Cunningham owed the owners of the building.
Cunningham handed Jain the keys to Centerfold Suites on Feb. 27, the lawsuit says. But in March, Cunningham switched gears and stopped helping Jain with the transition to new ownership, leading to the lawsuit. Both men agree the bad blood has to do with a woman named Brittani Potter, whom Jain brought in to help run the business. Cunningham says he and Potter had previously been associated running a lingerie shop on Southeast Division Street. Relations soured, Cunningham says, and he objects to her being involved in Centerfold Suites.
Jain claims Cunningham tried to take back the business and refused to turn the lease over to Jain as agreed. Now Jain is suing to try to force Cunningham to comply with their contract.
"I'd like to retain ownership, work out a long-term arrangement with the building owner, and just run a clean, nice place," Jain says.
Cunningham tells WW he's within his rights to back out of the arrangement.
"In terms of a lawsuit, this is going to be pretty easy," Cunningham says. "We didn't have a contract finished, [and] we don't have a lease in order."
Jain's lawsuit includes claims that Cunningham is willing to resort to heavy-handed treatment of competitors. For example, Jain claims Cunningham admitted to vandalizing Private Pleasures, a lingerie shop on Southwest Barbur Boulevard that competes with Cunningham's Pussycats next door.
Jain claims that while trying to take back Centerfold Suites, Cunningham issued "threats" that he can "become a total asshole" toward business competitors. As an example, Jain says Cunningham described vandalizing the Private Pleasures lingerie shop next door to Cunningham's Pussycats on Southwest Barbur Boulevard.
"Specifically, he told me that they poured cement into the toilets and shoved rotten garbage into the furnace and heating units. In addition, they performed routine vandalism and breakage but on a massive scale, according to his recounting of it," Jain writes.
Police reports show that last July, Private Pleasures owner Misty Hildebrand reported stolen computers, stolen security cameras and two broken windows.
Last September, the property owner, Hedy Kauffman, reported concrete poured in the drains and widespread flooding. Police arrived to witness "dripping walls, dripping ceiling fixtures, sheet rock sagging from the rafters…broken glass everywhere and torn-off wooden railings outside," a police report says.
Cunningham tells WW he never damaged Private Pleasures.
"How bizarre," Cunningham says about Jain's allegations. "I never had anything to do with that."
Private Pleasures closed soon thereafter and has not reopened. No arrests were made.