P Palace Pileup

How Tres Shannon's fun center got shook up, shut down and evicted.

Tres Shannon had big dreams for the Portland P Palace.

Back in December, the Voodoo Doughnut co-founder gave WW a tour of the bar and fun center he was putting together in an old car dealership at 2340 NE Sandy Blvd. He imagined a nightlife nirvana where all the offerings—from putt-putt golf to pool to PBR—would begin with the letter "P."

"In an ideal world," he said back then, "it'd be like Vegas, and every hour Mount St. Helens would erupt."

Shannon's plans have since blown up.

Records obtained by WW show Shannon's big idea has been thwarted by city codes and is mired in a lawsuit with the building's owners, former Dodge dealer Art Laws and his wife, Mary.

"It's just so sad," Shannon says. "It was the greatest business in Portland that was just a red squiggle away from opening, and now nobody will get to see it."

When Shannon first talked to WW about his plans (see “Voodoo Child,” WW, Dec. 21, 2011), he hoped for a January opening. 

Instead, he announced the P Palace's demise on Facebook on March 26, the night before he and his partners had to vacate the building.

In their eviction action, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the Lawses said the P Palace then owed $15,000 in back rent. 

The Lawses brought the action against John Hunt, a partner of Shannon's who owns a majority share of the business.

In court documents, Hunt responded that the business had already spent $150,000, including installing pool tables and a nine-hole putt-putt golf course, complete with miniature lighthouse. 

That was before Shannon and his partners, including Ray "Buzz" Gorder, learned they couldn't get a permit to operate the business. The City of Portland declared the building wouldn't meet seismic standards without a major upgrade.

In court documents, Hunt said the required upgrades would cost the P Palace $200,000.

And Hunt said in court documents the Lawses knew this ahead of time—and that the lease makes them responsible for all necessary improvements.

Shannon and his partners agreed to vacate the building. But now the building owners want their back rent.

On March 26, the Lawses sued Hunt to collect the back rent, now $20,475, plus penalties for failing to fulfill the lease, which ran until 2016.

Shannon says fault lies with several people. "I can say it wasn't just the city, and I can say it wasn't just us, and I can say it wasn't just the landlord," he says. "Opening a business is hard."

Stephen Rickles, the Lawses' lawyer, says it wouldn't have been so difficult if Hunt, Shannon and Gorder had looked at city building code.

"We're confident that whatever problems Mr. Hunt and his partners encountered are a result of code requirements that they should have known about when they signed the lease," Rickles says.

Many buildings in Portland are unsafe in earthquakes, but a change of use—from an auto showroom to a "family recreation center," for instance—can trigger seismic upgrade requirements by the city Bureau of Development Services.

The building was first constructed in 1919, says BDS section manager Terry Whitehill. 

"They had a lot of front windows on the building," he says. "And those are really bad. It's an old building. Yes, indeed."

Records show BDS employees inspected the building three times since last September. 

Meanwhile, Art and Mary Laws alleged in Multnomah Circuit Court filings that the P Palace paid reduced rents in November and December, then stopped paying altogether in January. (Shannon says the business was behind only a half month's rent and stopped paying only when it clearly couldn't open.)

Filings with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission show what might have been.

In applying for a liquor license, the P Palace provided a detailed floor plan that shows a wall of pinball machines, four pingpong tables, and something dubbed a “pickle ball court.” 

The P Palace also submitted its planned menu to the OLCC. Dishes included Pacific lox panini, pulled-pork sandwiches and pasta salad.

Shannon says he'd already hosted two parties in the P Palace space.

"The mayor attended one, and a former mayor attended one," Shannon says. "And it was the happiest I’ve ever seen either of them.” 

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