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City Opposes Former Sports Bar Owner’s Plans to Open a Bar-Restaurant with Naked Girls

SPRINGFIELD, Oregon — To hear him tell it, Jack Dugger — who until recently employed 16 women to dance naked at his Shakers Bar and Grill in Springfield — had never set foot in a strip club until he decided to open one eight years ago.

He says a twist of fate (and the threat of financial ruin) led him to convert his ailing sports bar into an erotic arts enterprise.

Yet another twist forced Shakers out of its former rented location. And Dugger’s choice of a new home for the club — a highly visible spot on Main Street — has drawn a fusillade against his character and his business practices from Springfield city officials and residents.

It was pure chance, Dugger said, that he wound up as the owner of a strip club in the first place — let alone persona non grata No. 1 downtown.

“I want the city to know that I think what they’re doing to me is criminal,” he said. “If the city hadn’t made such a big issue over this thing, nobody would even know we’re here.”

Others, including Springfield city officials and a former employee, say they know just how Dugger arrived in his predicament. They say he has a history of running trashy clubs that attract crime. Plus, his short temper has landed him in trouble, they say.

And so — before he has even opened Shakers at its new location — a lot of people want him gone.

For the moment, it seems, the city may have the upper hand. Shakers, at 535 Main St., remains unopened as Dugger awaits word on his liquor license application from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission following a blistering recommendation for denial by the City Council in July.

Sitting among a tangle of stacked chairs, boxes and unlit neon signs featuring the female form, Dugger maintains that he’s just a former construction worker who has paid his dues and is entitled, under Oregon law, to open his strip club in a commercial zone. Even if it is half a block from a high school, half a block from the new Wildish Community Theater and smack in the middle of the city’s newly established urban renewal district.

Dressed in his showy shirts and wingtip shoes, the 58-year-old Dugger has taken to the life of a gentlemen’s club owner.

At his new locale recently, Dugger, who is divorced and lives with a girlfriend, wore a matching gray suit jacket and pants with a gold watch, neck chain and rings. The back of his left hand bears a tattoo of the silhouette of a reclining naked woman, similar to those seen on mud flaps.

Dugger opened Shakers at 19th and South A streets as a sports bar in 1999 after retiring from decades in construction. The bar’s name came from a type of duck call used in hunting — not for gyrating ladies, he said.

But business was far from booming.

“I was just about ready to lose the house, the bar, everything,” he explained during an interview in late June.

He had heard there was more money to be made if he added naked women into the mix, so Dugger decided to give it a go.

It was then that he saw his first exotic dancers, he said.

He went to the Silver Dollar Club in Eugene and was surprised by what he said was a “fancy” atmosphere. The reinvented Shakers debuted soon after.

“I was terrified of it at first; of what I thought the element might be,” Dugger said. “But after having (owned) one, I would rather have a gentlemen’s club than a bar.”

As his business — and his roster of female employees — grew, Dugger became a benevolent figure to some of his dancers, all of whom work for tips.

Dancers at Shakers, when it was open, could expect to make $200 to $400 in a shift, dancer Stormy Howard said.

Howard, who has worked at Shakers on and off for three years, credits Dugger’s flexibility with enabling her to open her own dancing products store, Dancers Ala Carte, on Main Street near Third Street about six months ago.

Howard, a petite brunette in her 40s who has been dancing for 20 years, said she doesn’t understand all of the hatred that’s being shot Dugger’s way.

“Shakers is the only club in town that I’d like to dance for,” she said earlier this summer, sitting in her store full of platform shoes and dance outfits. “Jack’s a wonderful person, he has helped the girls — a lot of them go to college and most of them have children.”

Not everyone feels that way about Dugger, who in addition to owning Shakers also owns Club 420 — a bar, not a strip club — at 420 Main St. that has raised the ire of city officials before.

Club 420 was mentioned extensively in the city’s report recommending the state liquor commission deny a liquor license for Shakers.

In its case against Dugger — assembled into a 2-inch-thick binder and presented to the City Council and the liquor commission — the city attorney argued that the block Club 420 occupies is the epicenter of prostitution, drugs, fights and arrests in the city.

Most of the city’s investigation focused on Dugger’s alleged negligence at Club 420, but one former Shakers dancer said things weren’t much different in Dugger’s strip club.

“It’s actually pretty scary,” said a dancer named Christina, who worked at the former Shakers for a short time seven years ago.

Christina, 33, who now dances at a club in Eugene, said dancers were “pretty much breaking the law” by leaving the stage and illegally touching the clientele.

Dugger, she said, was rarely around and may not have been aware of the raunchiness of his club. Still, she said, that’s no excuse.

“You’ve got to be responsible about it, and you’ve got to know the laws,” said Christina, who spoke on condition her last name not be used. “I would never work there again. I wouldn’t feel safe.”

Dugger denied her allegation, asserting that Shakers was and will be “absolutely” safe and above board. He says security at Shakers was more stringent than at other strip bars in order to keep drunks from harming the girls.

Another Shakers employee bristled at any accusations that Shakers was a sleazy joint. At Shakers, employees are never required to be naked, or even to dance, said a dancer named Barbi, who also asked that her last name not be published.

Barbi, 41, has worked at Shakers for four years and said she prefers to sit among the customers and talk. Dugger, she said, has never pressured her to do otherwise.

“He’s a great guy; he’s been there when I needed him,” she said.

Friends and foes alike agree, though, that Dugger’s got a temper.

During a city fire inspection at the former Shakers site, a deputy fire marshal called Springfield police after Dugger became angry over code violations. Dugger, the official reported, began “yelling and cussing at me and started hitting my clipboard.”

Dugger’s son, Trent, said his father has been particularly on edge since he began tangling with the city.

“It’s probably built up stress,” he said. “It’s a lot of stress. To be honest, I really wish that he would get out of (the business). It’s too much, and he’s going to have a heart attack. Then I’m not going to have a dad, and my kids won’t have a granddad.”

Trent Dugger said the whole ordeal over the proposed new Shakers location — a City Council hearing on the liquor permit, protests by residents in front of the building and constant media coverage — has smeared his family’s good name.

He said his dad is “a hardworking, honest and giving man.”

“Now I’m afraid to tell people my name because I’m afraid how they’ll react,” the 33-year-old Springfield resident said, adding that his father feels the same way.

“What would you do if probably 100,000 people knew your name in a negative manner?”

Jack Dugger’s agitation is also apparent when he discusses his situation. During the standing-room-only council meeting in July on the Shakers liquor license application, Dugger’s hands shook as he gripped the podium and spoke.

While Dugger may appear defiant, Trent Dugger said the onslaught has hurt his dad’s feelings. “He takes pride in everything he does,” Trent Dugger said.

And Jack Dugger says he won’t bow to city officials and public pressure.

“I want them to know I don’t care anymore,” he said.

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