One of the most notorious strip clubs in the heart of Portland, OR was recently converted — literally and figuratively — into a church.
According to a May 29 report from The Oregonian, a two-year-old congregation that calls itself Shepherd’s Gate Church recently made the decision to renovate and move into the building space located at 333 S.E. 122nd Ave.
The building now has folding chairs in place of cheap leather booths, music stands instead of stripper poles, and cream-colored walls where there once was bright red.
Formerly, the building was home of Soobies Bar and Grill, which had made a reputation for itself over the years as a seedy, nefarious haven for the city’s ne’er-do-wells.
In 2009, for example, a customer shot a bartender after enjoying a few lap dances — then proceeded to rob the place. In 2013, the club’s notoriety for violence, drug activity, fights, excessive noise and public drunkenness led the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to revoke its liquor license.
Finally, last fall, Soobies Bar and Grill shut its doors for the final time, after what police deemed a gang-related shooting left one dead and four injured.
“It was the pits, believe me,” Denny Yost, the property’s owner, said.
When finding new tenants for the 2,465-square-foot building, Yost, along with nearby residents, had their fingers crossed for something better. They could have hardly predicted that a church group would want to move in.
“When he said it would be for a church I joked, ‘Step back, Bob, a bolt of lightning is going to hit one or both of us,'” Yost said of his meeting with real estate agent Bob Haskins.
On average, about 62% of Americans said they wished they read the Bible more often, but they just don’t know how to make time for it. If some of Soobies Bar and Grill’s former clientele visited Shepherd’s Gate Church once in a while, they might be able to make time for it.
Yost himself offered the congregation a half-off deal to move into the building, saying he hoped the church’s leaders would help spark improvements within the community. The church began offering services on March 29.
“This is a great metaphor for the Christian faith,” Haskins explained. “It’s the same on the outside, but totally different on the inside.”