Nightmarish squatters who have taken over a former $1.8 million strip club in Portland are moving electrical appliances out of a second-story window, and a resident is carrying a machete through the hallways — as the helpless owner puts it: ” I don’t know what else to do”
- One of Portland’s oldest strip club buildings is occupied by squatters
- Knife-wielding squatter kicks women out of building, residents say
- The squatters used the building’s second-story window to get things in and out
Portland squatters now occupy a $1.8 million building that housed the city’s first strip club until two years ago.
For months, squatters have lived on the upper floors of the building, moving electrical appliances out of a second-story window and using a screw gun and crowbar to break into the building whenever they are locked.
According to locals, one of the squatters carries a machete and drives women in and out of the property at all hours of the day.
“It’s pretty much a game of cat and mouse,” Bassel Ayoub, one of the building’s new owners, says Oregon Live. “We don’t like it any more than the neighbors. I don’t know what else to do at this point.
The building is now representative of the struggle to help clean up parts of Portland where politicians have let some run amok.
The building was a former hotel and housed one of the oldest and most famous strip clubs in town, Mary’s. Singer Courtney Love danced in the club, according to the Willamette week.
Portland squatters now occupy a $1.8million building that housed the city’s first strip club until two years ago
Mary’s, sometimes called ‘Portland’s first topless’, operated in the building until a few years ago
The upper levels of the three-story brick building were once the Stewart Hotel, which until a few years ago was a haven for low-income Portland residents.
In 2021, tenants of the building sued the owners of their building, alleging squalid conditions. Later that year it was purchased by Ayoub and his business partner, local dentist Hadi Nouredine.
Ayoub says the building still has electricity despite the fact that he has stopped paying electricity bills. “I haven’t paid a single bill,” he told the outlet. “It’s still a mystery to me.
Ayoub said he and Nouredine are now discussing plans to either renovate the entire building or demolish the top two floors and keep the street-level space for retail.
But he said either option could take three to five years.
Ayoub said he tried several times to eliminate the squatters and secure the building, but they only came back. Photos posted by Oregon Live show a padlocked ladder limiting access to the fire escape and metal latches installed above the ground-level entrance.
The building is on Eighth Avenue southwest, which faces Ankeny Square and is next to a drug and alcohol-free residence, which heightens tensions.
Singer Courtney Love (pictured) danced at Mary’s Club in Portland
Owners Ayoub said Nouredine said they are currently discussing plans to renovate the entire building or demolish the top two floors, but that could take up to five years.
“They keep laying down strips of metal, but one of the guys has a drill or a screwdriver and just opens up the building,” Frank Corrado, who lives in the Ankeny Square apartments, told Oregon Live.
“It will only take a crowbar to remove it,” he said.
The building has a long and crummy history. The Steward Hotel has been mentioned occasionally in local newspapers over the decades and usually in connection with petty crimes.
In its later years, it housed low-income tenants, including the elderly and disabled.
“I have visited many slums and this was the worst place I have ever set foot,” said Michael Fuller, attorney for the former tenants who filed the lawsuit in 2021.
“Put simply, it wasn’t safe.”
Mary’s hosted various singer and comic performances at the club in the 1950s. Love worked at the club, as did Christine Jorgensen, who was known to have undergone sex reassignment surgery.