Police raid downtown speakeasy, confiscate kegs

Exterior of the Star Theater »Play Video
Star Theater closes in downtown Portland after a police and Oregon Liquor Control Commission raid Friday night.

PORTLAND, Ore. - A downtown event venue is closed tonight after being raided by police and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The raid occurred after the OLCC received a tip that the club was selling alcohol without an important piece of paper: a liquor license. Police said the owners have operated it without that license and as an after-hours club for the past year. Now, the Star Theater is shut down.

We're talking about the Star Theater at 13 N.W. Sixth Ave. In the raid Friday night police confiscated various items like kegs.

Inside the Star Theater
Just steps off Northwest Burnside Street, the Star Theater is a rentable venue with an expansive patio in the middle of Old Town/China Town. On its Web site it promises "four full service bars" for any events. But investigators said that for the past year the theater has been doing more than just renting out its space to event directors with their own event licenses. Instead it has been operating as its own after-hours club.

Investigators said it really all comes down to two men who have been running the Star Theater. Owner 34-year-old Bret Beber and manager 48-year-old Barry Franklin were booked for illegal liquor sale charges. Both men were free as of Sunday night. KATU tried reaching the owner, but was unsuccessful.

On Sunday KATU confirmed that the venue's owner and manager face charges for not only breaking the law by selling alcohol without a license (allegedly also breaking the law by serving that alcohol after the mandatory 2:30 a.m. closing time), but also having anyone in the building in the first place.

Apparently the fire marshal's office is mandating the building remain closed, due to its discovery that an above-stage lighting system was apparently built without a permit. Investigators said until the lighting issue above the stage is fixed, the building must remain empty. And that's why the Star Theater is in even more trouble, for apparently ignoring alcohol laws as well as orders from the fire marshal.

The theater has been closed since the raid around 9 p.m. Friday night. On Sunday no one could be reached and the doors were locked-up tight.

This closure creates an interesting dichotomy for the surrounding neighborhood, as the new Max green and yellow line trains run right outside. Just across the street there are a number of empty businesses, and there are many transients along that stretch of Burnside Street.

So, despite the theater's troubles, neighboring businesses said it brought much needed life and vibrancy to this Northwest Portland stretch.

Police said the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will "deal with" both suspects. Meanwhile, the Star Theater should remain closed.