Witches on the Willamette

Last Saturday, the Willamette River was overtaken by what's become a familiar sight in Portland this time of year—a huge group of paddleboarding witches. The first witch paddle, held three years ago, drew around 30 participants. Now, it's roughly tripled in size. The organizers could not confirm the exact number of attendees, but there were over 300 RSVPs to the Facebook event.

Michael Francke’s funeral in 1989. (WW archives)
Michael Francke’s funeral in 1989. (WW archives)

Murder Inc.

The highest-profile Oregon murder in the past half-century is getting more attention—with a true-crime podcast. iHeartRadio last week released a new podcast called Murder in Oregon, revisiting the 1989 murder of then-director of the Oregon Department of Corrections Michael Francke. Prosecutors won a conviction of a small-time Salem criminal named Frank Gable in 1991, although skeptics, led by then-Oregonian Metro columnist Phil Stanford, did not believe Gable was the killer. In June of this year, a U.S. magistrate reviewed the conviction and ordered Gable released. Now, New York writer and producer Lauren Bright Pacheco is taking a fresh look at the story.

IMAGE: Gia Goodrich.
IMAGE: Gia Goodrich.

New Director-O

Portland Opera has named Sue Dixon its permanent general director, replacing Christopher Mattaliano, who served in the position for a decade before stepping down in July. Since then, the company had been vague about plans to find a replacement, while also attempting to recover from a severe budget deficit. Dixon—who had been serving as interim general director—was instrumental in developing the opera's new strategic plan, which includes increasing community outreach and staging shows at a wider variety of venues.

Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion. IMAGE: Mack Male / Flickr.
Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion. IMAGE: Mack Male / Flickr.

Big Brother Bloomin’

Outback Steakhouse locations in Oregon are being used to test a new computer surveillance tool designed to analyze interactions between customers and service staff. Well, they were, at least. The program, called Presto Vision, uses pre-existing security cameras to track metrics such as the length of time it takes for food to arrive and how quickly waitstaff tend to tables. But after Wired reported the technology was being tested at a single Outback Steakhouse franchise in Portland, the restaurant's parent company, Bloomin' Brands, halted the test. "We know our franchisee had the best of intentions when testing technology," a representative told WW in a statement. "But, we all agree that hospitality is best achieved by serving our customers' needs in the moment."

Read more: Outback Steakhouse Locations in Oregon Are Being Used to Test New Employee Surveillance Technology.

IMAGE: profernity / Flickr.
IMAGE: profernity / Flickr.

Tapped Out

California-based Heineken-owned brewery Lagunitas abruptly shuttered its Community Taproom in Northeast Portland last week, sending dozens of charities scrambling to relocate fundraisers. While the space on Northeast Broadway looked like a normal beer bar, it was designed specifically as a place for the city's nonprofit organizations to hold fundraising events free of charge. The sudden closure stunned nonprofits that had scheduled events at the taproom. Representatives from Lagunitas said the decision to close the taproom was made "to shift resources that will allow us to support more communities and nonprofits across the country."

(Lompac/5th Quadrant, Nashco)
(Lompac/5th Quadrant, Nashco)

Glass Half Empty

One of Portland's oldest breweries has called it quits. After 23 years, Lompoc Brewing announced last week it's shutting down. While the news wasn't entirely shocking—the company recently let go of two of its properties, including its original brewpub on Northwest 23rd Avenue—the closure represents another blow to Portland's original breweries. Over the past year, the city has lost the Alameda, Bridgeport and Burnside breweries, along with the restaurants at both Portland Brewing and Widmer Brothers.