The residents of the Laurelhurst neighborhood aren't happy about the new neighbor moving in from Spokane, Wash. Not that they liked the old neighbors much.
The new resident since last November is Diamonds Gentlemen's Club [link NSFW], at 3390 NE Sandy Blvd.—the latest venture in a building with a fractious history.
The previous tenant, a strip club called Mynt, was co-owned by a man who oversaw man-vs.-bear wrestling matches in Ohio. Mynt closed in May 2012 after the Oregon Liquor Control Commission warned it to stop hiring underage staff. Before that, the building housed La Fortuna Mexican Restaurant and Night Club, closed in 2008 after a man was shot to death in the parking lot.
"It's a crazy magnet," says Eric Fruits, president of the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association. "It seems like the owners of these strip clubs tend to have a lot of baggage."
So far, Diamonds has been a model neighbor while its application for a liquor license is pending. It's open five nights a week as a juice bar with nude dancing. It's given the building a new coat of white paint. In January, a club manager attended the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association meeting, accompanied by four dancers.
But a key player behind Diamonds has had trouble elsewhere: William Ray Westover, 41, was arrested last July on suspicion of promoting prostitution and money laundering at his businesses, Asian Health Spa and Far East Oriental Spa in Spokane.
Last year, police in the nearby town of Airway Heights ran a sting called "Operation Red Light" that shut down eight spas and massage parlors; the 14-month investigation involved 11 law-enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Airway Heights Police Detective Kelly Justice wrote in an arrest affidavit that Westover made 41 cash deposits above $900 in just over two years, and moved money between two bank accounts to pay business expenses and buy a 2007 Hyundai Sonata.
"The investigation indicates that both these spas are operated for the sole purpose of engaging in illegal activity to include acts of prostitution," Justice wrote.
Records from the case allege Westover had sex with one woman applying for a job at his spas, and told another she could use a condom the first time she slept with a client, but couldn't use protection after that. But police still haven't filed formal charges against Westover or any of the other six spa owners they arrested.
OLCC records show four months after the raid, Westover signed a $6,500-a-month lease for the building on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, along with Scott Jorgens, a business partner also from Spokane. The OLCC application was submitted by Jorgens and Westover's wife, Jinky Vidal Westover, and a company called WJ Management.
On the application, Jinky Westover answered both "yes" and "no" where the application asked whether her spouse would be involved in business operations.
Jorgens declined to answer WW's questions and referred calls to William Westover, whom he said was usually working at Diamonds. Westover didn't respond to WW's calls.
Westover's two Spokane spas now appear deserted. Asian Health Spa is marked with hand-stenciled signs reading "This-N-That Thrift Shop," a business registered in Washington to Jinky Westover.
Inside Diamonds, lasers and an ultraviolet glow make the club feel like the inside of a tropical fish tank. Last weekend, a dancer explained customers' options for personal dances: $25 for a nude dance, and $100 for 15 minutes in a private room. The private-room rate goes up to $300 for an hour, she said.
"You can touch yourself, and I can touch myself," she said. "I think you should get a private dance." (This reporter declined.)
In posh Laurelhurst, where homes near Diamonds are valued at more than $800,000, the new club is already unwelcome. Tanya Baikow-Smith, who lives less than a block from the club, wants it gone. "It doesn't bring the kind of people into the neighborhood that we want," she says.
In February, the neighborhood association sent a dossier on Westover to City of Portland liquor-licensing specialist Theresa Marchetti. The city has recommended against the OLCC issuing Diamonds a license, based on a Portland police investigation that cites Westover's arrest and concludes the applicant "is not of good repute and moral character." The OLCC says it has no deadline for making a decision.
Jim Atwood, the managing partner for the building's owner, said he didn't know about Westover's arrest when he rented to him. "I'd be happy to rent it to somebody other than a strip club," Atwood says, "if I could find anybody.â
Heidi Groover, staff writer for The Pacific Northwest Inlander in Spokane, contributed to this story.