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Council casts symbolic vote on Gems' license

Usually liquor license applications don’t come directly before the Hillsboro City Council for an up or down vote. Instead, they are routinely handled as part of the consent agenda.

That changed at the council’s April 15 meeting, however. A liquor license renewal application for Gems — an “adult entertainment” business more commonly referred to as a strip club — was removed from the consent agenda and brought up for a vote.

Gems, located at 1735 S.E. TV Highway in Hillsboro, was seeking to renew its full on-premises sales of liquor, which would allow the business to continue sales of alcohol.

For many years, the business was a sports tavern called the Cooler Club. In August of last year, owner Frank Hurliman said he planned to reopen the business as a strip club called Gems.

Gems’ request to renew its liquor license was among those that had been reviewed by the Hillsboro Police Department “and no objections have been filed,” read an excerpt from the council’s agenda.

However, the liquor license renewal for Gems was rejected by the council members in a 3-2 vote, with Aron Carleson, Steve Callaway and Megan Braze voting “No” and Olga Acuna and Darell Lumaco voting “Yes.”

Not in danger

But the council’s move was symbolic only, and Gems is not in danger of losing its liquor license.

“Our vote was almost ceremonial,” said Callaway. “If we say ‘No,’ it doesn’t change what the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) decides. Our vote has no bearing on it.”

Callaway said his vote to oppose renewal of the liquor license was designed to make a statement about having a strip club in the city.

“It’s allowed by the state constitution, but as a city council, we heard strong testimony from neighbors concerned about it being located close to their homes,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve had a chance to say ‘No’ to anything about Gems. I’ve heard the concerns of the public and share those concerns. They will get their license anyway, but this was a chance to say in a public way we heard that message from the citizens.”