Stock up on Red Bull: It might soon become more possible to stay out past 1 o'clock in the morning in Portland (without being crammed into someone's house party).
Port City Music Hall has applied for a city-regulated after-hours entertainment license that would allow its proprietors to host events and serve food and non-alcoholic beverages until 3 am. (Alcohol sales would still shut down at 1 am, as per state law.)
The late-night license (which costs $545 a year, according to city documents) would allow Port City to keep its doors open as a niche venue on otherwise slow nights, such as those when a big act performs at the State Theatre.
"On nights when I have a hard time drawing attention because of other shows in town I'd like to be able to offer some after-party themed event," says Rob Evon, general manager of Port City.
But not everyone is so gung-ho about the after-hours idea. While no one takes issue with Port City's application specifically, the Portland Police Department and members of the city council have expressed reservations about the late-night concept in general, citing concerns about drunk patrons and stretched-thin police resources.
"[P]ast efforts of other establishments to provide after hours entertainment have consistently proved problematic for public safety," police chief Mike Sauschuck wrote in a March 2 memo to city officials. "We believe that areas abutting after-hours establishments will encounter increased calls for police services, crimes of disorder and violence" at a time of day (or night) when the number of officers available is typically low.
Evon, who met with the PPD on Monday to discuss these issues, is confident that Port City can manage late-night crowds. "One of the things we're going to do is implement a cover charge that will really eliminate a bunch of the riff-raff that would typically go to those free after-hours parties back in the day," Evon says, referring to the oft-cited example of rowdy events at the now-defunct Zoots on Forest Avenue.
Police Commander Vern Malloch said Tuesday that PPD "concerns have been reduced significantly" after meeting with Evon.
The City Council will take up Port City's request at its March 19 meeting; before that, at its 6 pm meeting this Thursday, the council's subcommittee on Public Safety and Health and Human Services will consider the rule as a whole.
"I'm not opposed to the after-hours entertainment licenses in general," says subcommittee chair Ed Suslovic, who wants to issue a temporary moratorium (of about 30 to 60 days) on such permits until certain details are worked out.
He wonders how the police force can afford to keep extra officers on the streets, as well as whether venues will be required to give the city advance warning before after-hours events and how many such licenses will be available.
Currently, Styxx on Spring Street is the only venue with an after-hours license.
"If I was seeing big problems with the licenses I would be more inclined to support some changes," says West End councilor Dave Marshall, who did not want the matter referred to the public safety subcommittee, on which he also serves. "But we haven't seen any problems in the last six or seven years . . . police fear that sort of scenario again, where they have an unmanageable situation. I think we should follow these licenses closely and if we start hearing complaints we need to call people back in."
Evon believes after-hours events will serve as a "benefit to Portland as a music destination. Every major music market in the country doesn't shut down at 1 am."
Perhaps soon, neither will Portland.