Bob White: Love It, Like It, or Not So Sure?

In just two short years, we’ve seen the Bob White Theatre reborn after two-plus decades of inactivity and decay; renovated; offered to the community for their interests; raucous shows that have angered local businesses and residents; gone dark; stalled; and now reborn again.

IMG_1029Of all those fits and starts, Pulsar Productions’ recent jump into managing/promoting events at the theater brings the most optimism.  That optimism, though, simply stems from the fact that A) they have experience putting on shows and B) they’ve brought the most action to the theater since its last heyday nearly 30 years ago.  However, not all of the events they’ve thrown have appealed to the community, and some have found themselves frustrated by late-night / early-morning noise and other complaints.  And this has happened before, too (pre-Pulsar).

The following is a Facebook post written by one of our readers, in which their complaints about recent activity in and around the theater are worth noting:

              “I wanted to address this with the neighborhood since I see it as a nuisance. I am a musician and a very laid back person, but I am fed up with the Bob White Theater. Saturday (into Sunday) they held a rave that went until 5am. My son was up half the night, as was I. When I say “held a rave until 5am,” I literally mean the music was blasting until 5am. My husband checked with the city and that theater has no permit for anything even remotely resembling what took place last weekend. It’s been my experience as a neighbor of this establishment that they bend a lot of rules (with obtaining permits and violating noise laws) and attract patrons that smash glass in the street (and in my driveway), scream at each other until all hours, throw garbage everywhere, and drink outside of the venue (in the SEIU parking lot) and the establishment itself is NOT soundproofed and they have a tendency to leave doors open, etc. Anyway, I am pretty much completely over that place. I’ve tried to talk to the owner, and he is a dismissive jerk. He basically called me a liar when I cited specific examples of uncool behavior from the venue and its patrons. I would encourage people to PLEASE visit portlandonline.com/oni and visit the noise violation link. I would really appreciate it if the folks at the Bob White were made officially aware of how inappropriate they are.”

In their defense, the group currently running the theater recently met with the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association to introduce themselves and solicit feedback from the community.  At that meeting, they readily admitted there will be growing pains as they figure out how to manage large events at a neighborhood venue.  They’ve also attempted to offer more variety than the EDM/rave-like shows currently dotting the event lineup.  For example: Pulsar Sci-Fi Movie Club and a planned digital-gaming library, dubbed Game Genesis.  It’s also very early to make any conclusions, good, bad, or otherwise.

Still, with all that being said, we thought we’d pose the question to you: are you satisfied with the Bob White’s most recent incarnation?  Is it a good start?  What more would you like to see?  

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16 Responses to Bob White: Love It, Like It, or Not So Sure?

  1. Tim says:

    Totally over it. Throwing parties for teenagers from Beaverton/Hillsboro (check the fb) isn’t my idea of how such a central tenant of the neighborhood should foster growth and engagement. I don’t think it’s Pulsar’s fault, they’re doing their best given the resources, but the Bob White needs some serious investment. Kickstarter anyone? I doubt it will get any better until someone or an organization with a real vision and some deep pockets takes over.

  2. Miles says:

    I guess I’ll post my response (originally on FB) here as well:

    Pulsar Productions has rented the space since October on a month to month basis. I am no longer involved really, I pulled my sound system out after halloween since they’re not ready to commit to rent it for live shows. After 3 months of intense thinking about the subject, I am forced to conclude that what I want to do is close if not impossible to implement in the Bobwhite. I’d love to be able to say differently, but the warehouse zoning in the Whurlitzer room is a deal killer. Basically someone needs to spend somewhere from $500k to $1M to bring the room up to code as a public assembly space so there can be some money made in there. Until that happens, it’s fairly cheap rent, but nothing can be done in there really. After that’s done, whoever has it better have a real plan for making some big money, cause it’s going to be $12-15k a month to keep the place open. If we could work with someone that would be willing to do the improvements and start us off at a low rent, then it’s possible. But they’d be eating a lot of money for a while… it’s possible now to throw shows in the theater and run a bar in the Whurlitzer (49 people or less in there at a time), but it’s going to be mighty cold until the HVAC gets installed… (which I think triggers this whole $1M upgrade process, though I may be wrong there). I think there’s a good reason someone like the McMenamins haven’t jumped on it already.

    And add: I’m willing to sit down with anyone and talk about it.

    • Ramiro says:

      I partially agree with you miles although I don’t understand your ‘$1M upgrade process’. I applaud the new owner that has taken the Bob White from a dilapidated theatre to a functioning theatre… even if its a work in progress. After having gone into the theatre earlier this year I was surprised how intact everything was! It would be great if they would just play movies like they used to do in the old days.

      • Miles says:

        The $1M number comes from the need for the Wurlitzer room to upgrade to a public assembly space (it is now zoned a warehouse). Nick Storie expects it to cost $600k+ to add the bathrooms, seismic upgrade, drains in the floor, HVAC, etc… to get the zoning changed. Then the build out (adding a kitchen or rooms for rent or whatever) would be some extra. Then the wurlitzer could be used more than 12 times a year. The theater is in the same boat, but it is grandfathered in as a venue. So as long as nothing is changed in there, it can be open to the public as is. However it definitely needs some acoustic treatment before I would consider it a viable venue for live music or movies. The bathroom situation is kinda awkward in there, not enough and hard to get to.

  3. Rogue says:

    Need better shows that attract a variety of customers (bookie), dates on the marquee instead of just things “like dance party”( manager) the ability to shut down on time, a manager that is not the owner may help. All that aside it would be a great addition to the neighborhood if run better.

  4. Sara says:

    I would be into a movie theater, but as a person who lives in close proximity to the Bob White, I feel it is inappropriate to host shows when there is no soundproofing. What’s more, the folks who run the place leave all the doors open which only serves to exacerbate an already loud situation. The Bob White appears entitled by disregarding basic considerations. Not even venues who are known for hosting loud music are as loud on the exterior as the Bob White and they seem to close at reasonable hours (i.e. The Roseland).

    I am absolutely shocked at the brazen disregard demonstrated by this theater. Also, it is bizarre that the hammer hasn’t already come down in some form on the Bob White. Additionally, I’d like to point out that O’Malley’s (a few doors down) hosts punk shows and that has never presented an issue, so I know it is possible to have a venue that hosts music without creating a problem. O’Malley’s has doors that spring shut. That is a pretty good start.

    For the Bob White to work, they are going to need to make some major changes: soundproofing, better bouncers, make sure doors and windows are closed, closing at a reasonable hour, not allowing alcohol outdoors, checking patrons for drugs, revisiting the culture of the venue and its staff, and consistently notifying neighbors of ALL events (i.e. Raves). While I love to see old buildings revived, I am not thrilled with the theater and would not be sad to see it go.

    • Miles says:

      Sara, I’m guessing you’re across 65th from the theater? I would be interested in knowing so that changes could be made. From what I’ve noticed, the sound from the theater is pretty (surprisingly) quiet outside. It’s the sound form the Wurlitzer room that seems to bleed out of the building due to the 2 story garage doors in the back of the room. My vision includes filling in this garage door space with meeting rooms, which would have real walls and most likely mitigate this problem. Currently they have built an extra wall out of cubical walls on the inside of the garage doors to try to help, apparently it’s not really working.

      If you want to know about the show calendar and express concerns, go talk to them. The guys running it couldn’t be nicer, they will definitely hear you out.

  5. Notifying neighbors of ALL events? Talk about feeling entitled.

  6. Pingback: Happy Weekend, FoPo! |

  7. Anti-m says:

    If my hazy understanding is correct, the “$1M upgrade process” is due to the fact that ANY renovation triggers a requirement that existing infrastructure be brought up to contemporary code. In other words, to pull the permits to upgrade the HVAC, you’d need to also tackle the seismic upgrades required by current codes. (I could be way off mark here.)

    If someone gave me the choice of having a Hawthorne Theater (odd, unheated music venue catering to semi-obscure acts and events) or a Laurelhurst Theater (second run movies with pizza and beer) I’d choose option number two.

    Sorry, guys, but the current management / lineup seems to be running into derp territory. (By which I mean a very few fine hairs north of Juggalo shenanigans.)

    How can we class up the joint and wrangle raising capital to make the space into something viable? Is there a way for the neighborhood to make an investment along the lines of what is being proposed for the Wickman space?

    • Miles says:

      I have a lot of ideas for a community supported approach to getting this venue up and running. I met with the Wikman group, we have similar ideas on how to make this work. My idea is based upon a community membership, partnering with local schools to provide subsidized art and music classes and performance space, rooms for members to book for meetings/classes/practice rooms, and a bar/restaurant which would be the main money maker for the venue itself. I am thinking about starting a biweekly(?) community potluck dinner to discuss these ideas and see if we can’t get some buy in from the community. I’d love to hear what you all have to say about this. I will work on making my ideas into a presentation that we can use as a starting point. Anyway, as I stated before, the Bobwhite is either not the right space or very expensive. We could either find crowd funding/grants or a different space or both. Anyway, hit me up if you’re interested in talking about it.

  8. Anti-m says:

    Um, also, while I love the idea, the premise of Sci-Fi movie night sounds like a one-way ticket to cease and desistville from the MPAA. (Bring a DVD and we’ll play it! $3 admission!) C’mon guys. This is not the effort of a serious business enterprise.

    • Miles says:

      Yeah, this is a quick ticket to getting sued… not sure what they’re thinking there. The movie thing could be done as is now with a $30k projector investment and a screen. I have a high school friend who owns the Bijou in Eugene, he may be able to provide us a screen and projector (old school though) for equity in the business. However, the theater is going to be really cold… and heating it is going to be very expensive. I’m not sure how to make the movie thing work. As I understand, it’s all about having a bar to sell drinks to make money. Back to the question of the Wurlitzer room… can it be a bar every day in a warehouse zoned building?

      • Ceevee says:

        It sounds like right now the place needs to go with whatever can bring in some interest and funds. Movies may be the way to go for now. The Clinton Theater is cold too (though maybe not quite as cold?). Maybe that is the model to go for, for the time being and see where it leads? What is the deal with Day Theater? Are they more equipped for your vision?

  9. Nick Falbo says:

    I always hoped the Wurlitzer Room could turn into a set of cheap-rent artist studios – screenprinting, casting, metalwork, painting, etc … where people could be creative and messy.

  10. FoPo Friend says:

    For those who feel they need to be notified of events. This one is coming up on NYE there and is promising an outdoor stage as well.
    https://www.facebook.com/events/752605674755155/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

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