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Portland Jazz Club Given Reprieve On Curfew


Sometimes patrons at Solae's become part of the band. An organic experience when the entire place jumps to the music.

Sometimes patrons at Solae's become part of the band. An organic experience when the entire place jumps to the music.

David Stuckey/OPB

The northeast Portland jazz club Solae’s Lounge has been given a few more weeks to iron out noise problems.

The city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) says it has received repeated complaints over the club’s two year lifespan about loud music. Solae’s is part of a shrinking circle of venues booking jazz and blues bands in Portland — and one of only two such venues in town owned by black entrepreneurs.

ONI asked an administrative hearings officer for permission to impose a 10 p.m. curfew on the club, after officials said they’d been unable to get satisfaction for neighbors’ complaints.

Scott Conary is a visual artist who lives around the corner from the club. At an administrative hearing Thursday, he testified about repeated conversations with club owner Yosief Embaye  and staff.

“We keep talking about it as a jazz bar,” Conary said in testimony, “but they also have very loud funk and blues bands, with amplified bass. It can be very very loud. We often have to retreat to the back of our house. It’s often going on well past 11:30 or midnight or so.”

 

Yosief Embaye (seated, center), the owner of Solae's Lounge, listens during testimony during the compliance hearing for noise complaints against the club.

Yosief Embaye (seated, center), the owner of Solae's Lounge, listens during testimony during the compliance hearing for noise complaints against the club.

April Baer/OPB

There are nights when Solae’s music isn’t a problem, Conary added. But, he continued, “We get to hear every bit of it.”

The hearing was attended by a number of artists and others supporting Embaye, like PSU music professor and recording artist Darrell Grant and Bruce Fife, President of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 99.

Several people testifying for both sides noted the acrimonious nature of the dispute, in a historically-black part of town that’s weathered sweeping gentrification and displacement of black residents.

At the hearing, Embaye’s attorney pursued questions suggesting ONI’s pursuit of the complaints were inconsistent, saying staff sometimes act on community complaints without verifying with their own noise measurements.

The city’s program manager countered that ONI works with hundreds of licensees on various issues, and would not be able to take measurements for every citizen complaint logged.

After a long day of testimony, Hearings Officer Melvin Oden-Orr asked both sides to talk to each other, and try to work out a plan offline.

The city and Embaye are now on deadline to draft an agreement by January 3. That document must specify improvements that would mitigate the neighborhood noise problems, and outline a schedule for getting the improvements in place.

Oden-Orr left the door open for an additional hearing, in case issues could not be resolved within 45 days.

He acknowledged that granting the city’s request for a curfew — or denying it — would create more unhappiness, and that he hoped a resolution could be reached offline.

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