After months of tight restrictions and alleged bullying from Oregon Liquor Control Commission officials, Liquid Lounge & Club, a popular Bend nightclub, has closed its doors indefinitely.
Liquid General Manager Tim Long says he was doomed from the outset, and finally forced to shut down last Wednesday after the OLCC revoked the club's liquor license.
Officials from the OLCC say that Liquid was a problem bar, and point to its five violations in roughly three months as proof. But Long thinks his club was unfairly targeted. As if to underscore his point, an OLCC report shows that investigators—sometimes undercover—visited Liquid on at least four separate occasions during a 13-day period last October.
The club opened a year and half ago, on April 20, 2012. Previously, the space had been Boondocks Bar & Grill, a venue dogged by complaints and problems; a reputation that Long says was unfairly carried over to Liquid.
From the get-go, Long's club was slapped with a number of OLCC restrictions, like: No patron may possess two drinks, no double pours, and the parking lot must be patrolled every five minutes.
"We didn't have a chance out of the gate," Long explains.
Christie Scott, OLCC Public Affairs Specialist, disagrees. Scott says had Long or club owner Kin Kwok Cho had an issue with the license's restrictions, they should have raised the point at the time of licensure.
Either way, the restrictions proved too much to bear, even though Long says he did all that he could to be in compliance. He paid a security guy to patrol the parking lot full time. He held meetings with employees to clarify the restrictions. He even met with Bend Police Department's Capt. Cory Darling.
But all for naught.
"Nothing seems to be good enough," explains Long, who outlines potential problems with the restrictions, such as, what happens if a patron hands his buddy a drink while visiting the restroom? Does that count as one patron with two drinks? The OLCC answer was, "Use your best judgment."
Ironically, Liquid's ultimate undoing was based on a similar scenario.
Despite the cavernous bar's 700-plus capacity—nearly seven times the size of other downtown bars—Long says calls to Bend police were greatly reduced once ownership changed in 2012. Capt. Darling, however, says that while calls to Liquid were reduced by about half and conditions did improve, not all of the issues were eliminated.
Meanwhile, all shows booked for November and beyond have been postponed or moved to alternate venues. Long and the club's lawyers are weighing their options and considering legal steps and further appeals.
Mostly, according to Long, the OLCC set Liquid up for failure.
"Imagine driving around town all the time with a cop following you," says Long.