Address: 5940 N Interstate Ave.
Year built: 1949
Square footage: 3,217
Market value: $1.8 million
Owner: Pat Lanagan
How long it’s been empty: 3 years
Why it’s empty: Health troubles, street hassles
Last month, Pat Lanagan suggested WW examine this storefront along the MAX Yellow Line. “It has a somewhat interesting story,” he wrote. “It’s my building.”
That pitch was difficult to resist. Especially when it came from the onetime proprietor of three of Portland’s liveliest gay bars—Porky’s, the Eagle and Sullivan’s Gulch Bar & Grill—and when the address was the former den of Fat Cobra Video.
For the uninitiated, Fat Cobra was a chain of adult video stores Lanagan oversaw for much of the 2000s. The North Portland storefront on Interstate Avenue was particularly well known for its arcade of glory holes—and for the fact that it operated one block from Ockley Green Middle School.
Portland lawyer Lake Perriguey, who worked on cases that reaffirmed Oregon’s broad constitutional protections for free speech, cited Fat Cobra Video this year as an example of the rights upheld in the 2005 state Supreme Court decision in Oregon v. Ciancanelli.
“If you can have a Christian bookstore across the street from an elementary school,” Perriguey said, “that’s why you could have a glory-hole emporium across the street from a middle school.”
You still can, though Portland doesn’t. Fat Cobra closed in 2019. Lanagan says several factors contributed to the closure, including surgery that left him partially paralyzed in both legs.
Reached by phone on vacation in Maui, Lanagan told WW last week that he was ready to start a new chapter. “I was thrown off my horse really fucking hard,” he said, “and I’ve managed to climb back on.”
But the man who contributed to Portland’s anything-goes reputation said North Interstate Avenue had become a little too gritty to be conducive to opening any sort of retail business. “In this environment, it’s a little bit disconcerting,” he said. He had reached out to the Portland Housing Bureau about using the building, including its upstairs apartment, as shelter for unhoused people but gained little traction.
Undeterred, Lanagan vows the space will soon reopen as a vintage store called 5 O’Clock Fashion Exchange. (New signage is already up.) As he renovated the erstwhile Fat Cobra, he grew fascinated by the building’s history: “It absolutely had been a soda fountain at one time.”
Every week, WW examines one mysteriously vacant property in the city of Portland, explains why it’s empty, and considers what might arrive there next. Send addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org.