State says Portland bar discriminated against transgendered group

State says Portland bar discriminated against transgendered group
Chris Penner owns the Twilight Room Annex, formally known as the P Club.

PORTLAND, Ore. – The owner of a North Portland bar was discriminating against a group of transgendered customers when he left phone messages for them asking them to stay away, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries concluded.

An investigation by the BOLI Civil Rights Division ruled that owner Chris Penner tried to keep the group away from his bar based on their gender identity.

At the time, Penner's bar was called the P Club. He has since changed its name to the Twilight Room Annex.

“No place of public accommodations in Oregon is going to be allowed to discriminate based on gender identity,” Oregon Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian said.  “Enforcing civil rights laws is important to all Oregonians, especially the fundamental right to patronize businesses of your choice without being summarily barred based on a group affiliation.”

Oregon state law protects anyone from discrimination because of sexual orientation, but that's not just about sexual preference. It also covers gender identity.

Avakian said Investigators found evidence that Penner left phone messages asking the group of transgendered women to stop visiting the P Club because he felt they were hurting his business by creating the perception that the P Club is a “tranny bar.”

Investigators said Penner’s claims that the group, known as the Rose City T-Girls, was disruptive and the focus of complaints from other customers was not backed up during interviews with P Club employees or patrons. The investigation concluded that no concerns were ever raised about the T-Girls – not even during the voice messages left by Penner, Avakian said.

“The P Club never notified the T-Girls of any complaints about their behavior and never took any steps to remove allegedly troublesome individuals,” said Avakian. “Blocking the entire group from visiting the P Club in reaction to rumors that the establishment ‘is a tranny bar’ is an overreaction, is unfair, and is on its face unlawful discrimination.”

Avakian said barring a settlement in the case, BOLI will issue formal charges now that the investigation is complete.

An employee with the Twilight Room Annex told KATU News Penner was unavailable for comment Wednesday.