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Weird, pioneering, rambunctious yet caring — Portland Oregon makes for a fabulous, if somewhat unexpected, gay holiday destination. When it comes to the local gay scene, well where do we even start. Not only are there more gay clubs, bars, and bathhouses here than you could possibly visit in one trip — but there are rainbow flags proudly flown across the city to let you know you are welcome absolutely everywhere you go. Queer spirit is still strong here, as testament by the broad line up of annual LGBT events including Portland Pride which sees the entire downtown city shut down in a spectacle, unlike anything we have ever seen. Even if you are not able to visit for these flagship events, there is all but guaranteed to be something every night of the week to pique your interest. Oh, and did we mention there is not one, but two, gay male strip clubs….

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Portland bathhouses & sex clubs

YOU are an essential part of what we do. Simply put, without recurring monthly contributions from readers like you, it's impossible to provide the high quality journalism that protects the marginalized and holds the powerful able.

We've all seen what happens to communities when reporting disappears and falsehoods take root. So if you believe our mission is important and necessary, please consider a small monthly contribution to the Mercuryand we'll keep working hard for you and those who need it most! Just like "escorts" have little to do with handholding and pleasant dinner conversation, it's no secret that bathhouses are synonymous with gay sex. In the late '70s and early '80s, six such clubs operated in Portland.

Gay portland | the essential lgbt travel guide!

But the spread of AIDS and a culture of anxiety that permeated the gay social scene shut down foot traffic through those establishments. In truth, despite opponents' claims, bathhouses are banned by neither the city nor county of San Francisco. Several prominent clubs line the upscale, decidedly gay Castro District, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city.

Even the stuffy weekly periodical the Bay Guardian proudly nominates the "best sex club" in San Francisco every year.

This year it was Eros, a popular bathhouse along Market Street. The first such bathhouse to open in Portland in nearly a decade, Steam Portland would have launched discreetly and with little fanfare had neighbors not thrown up their arms in dismay.

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Five years ago, say residents, the Hollywood neighborhood was a bona fide red-light district, crawling with prostitutes and plagued by seedy strip clubs and adult bookstores. Due to untiring neighborhood policing and pressure, the area has about-faced. Only a few strip ts remain on the east end of Sandy Blvd, and hookers are as rare as Starbucks is common. But, say a handful of residents, Steam Portland will re-introduce seediness, amorality, and crime.

Neighbors steamed at gay spa

According to architecture plans, the business will feature a hot tub, a steam room, and plus private rooms. The owner has assured that condoms will be available and has indicated that he hopes to maintain a scene of decorum. Even so, residents are unyielding in their objections. Opponents' objections have walked a fine line between moral condemnation of gay culture and concerns about the safety of their neighborhood.

She went on to explain that she plans to mail evidence of the "crimes" committed by Steam Portland patrons to the business' owners.

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When asked what sort of evidence, she said, "used condoms, needles, sex toys. They will look up and undress you with their eyes. It is the same thing that happens outside strip clubs," she claimed. But legally, there is nothing that residents can do.

Although opponents say that the owner lied to the city, all permits have been issued; the business fits within the current zoning and business plan for the district. Outside basic zoning guidelines, a business cannot be regulated based on moral considerations.

Unless the operation of the business does, in fact, break laws, create a nuisance or attract crime, there is little that neighbors can do but raise their voices at neighborhood meetings. This scenario is akin to what St. Francis Church has struggled through in the past few months, as neighbors in the Buckman community complained that the church's dining services for the homeless were attracting petty criminals.

Facing closure from the police, two weeks ago the church hammered out an agreement to contain patrons on their own property. Similarly, members of the Hollywood Development Community have reportedly suggested that they work out a "good neighbor agreement" with Steam Portland. Under such an agreement, Steam Portland would voluntarily offer conditions under which they would operate.

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