Three enterprising business partners are about to open a new Ashland nightclub in a once-famous location for all the wrong reasons. Given the history of the previous establishment on Will Dodge Way, it is understandable that members of city council and other members of the community have expressed concern over the approval of a liquor license for the new company, the Trap Door. What is not understandable is to hold the new owners responsible for what happened under the previous management.
In the end, council members voted to approve the application for an unrestricted liquor license. It was the right choice, and the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission is expected to give final approval to the request.
The previous establishment, known as the Vinyl Club, was the site of years of disorderly conduct complaints involving drunkenness, public urination and violence, including a 2018 incident in which a bouncer at the Vinyl Club was charged with second-degree assault for beating a customer, inflicting grievous bodily harm. Shortly after, the OLCC told the owner of the Vinyl Club to give up his liquor license for 28 days or pay a fine. He chose to close the business and sell it instead.
The new owners waited out the pandemic before looking to open a new business, spending the time remodeling the space to accommodate an upscale lounge and cocktail bar. They plan to limit occupancy to 59 people to maintain an intimate atmosphere, and offer craft cocktails and high-quality cuisine.
Given the venue’s history, City Council considered approving the liquor license application with conditions, including limiting the amount of alcohol in cocktails, limiting the hours of live music, and prohibiting serve drinks after 1am. The advisers correctly decided not to recommend any restrictions.
It would have been unfair to the new owners, who deserve the opportunity to show that they can operate a brand new business responsibly. The OLCC would consider pursuing a report examining past issues with the location. If this is the case, the commission should not hold the new owners responsible for events that have occurred in the past in a place that has been closed for three years.
If problems arise in the future, the City and the OLCC can address them. Unless and until they do, new owners should benefit from the doubt.