Attorneys for the city of Portland argued Friday that a federal judge should reject the claims of racial discrimination made by black nightclub owner Rodney DeWalt, whose Northeast Portland hip-hop club closed after losing its liquor license.
Bill Manlove, arguing on behalf of the city in U.S. District Court, said DeWalt failed to single out actions by a specific Portland employee to support his claim that the city treated The Fountaine Bleau differently when it requested the Oregon Liquor Control Commission revoke its license following a fatal November 2013 shooting of a patron outside the club.
Manlove argued the examples presented by DeWalt's attorneys of similar closures of black-owned clubs since the 1920s are too outdated to support DeWalt's current claim.
Attorneys for DeWalt say they intend to show Portland's decision to target The Fountaine Bleau is part of a pattern of discrimination stretching back decades.
Other black business owners have made similar allegations since DeWalt filed his suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court in May 2014.
In August, WW reported on a $22 million lawsuit against Portland and the OLCC stemming from the closure of black-owned strip club Exotica International Club for Men in Northeast Portland. After three men were wounded in a parking lot shooting, owner Donna Thames was forced to close the club in 2015.
Much like DeWalt, Thames alleged that the government's response was part of a pattern of Portland-area regulators cracking down on black-owned nightclubs.
Jesse Davis, an Oregon Department of Justice attorney, defended the OLCC's decision to suspend The Fountaine Bleau's liquor license based on issues of public safety, although DeWalt noted in 2014 that bars with "predominantly white clientele" got different treatment and remained licensed after shootings.
"The city has been doing the same thing to black businesses since its founding," says Jesse Merrithew, an attorney for DeWalt. "That's what we intend to prove."
A ruling from federal Magistrate Judge John Acosta isn't expected for several weeks.