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Oregon to probe alleged racist remark

Associated Press

PORTLAND – The Oregon Department of Justice will investigate a nightclub manager’s claim that a state liquor inspector once warned him not to seek black customers because they don’t belong in downtown Portland.

Rami Makboul, manager of The Vue, disclosed the alleged comment in an Aug. 10 e-mail to the Oregon Liquor License Commission. Makboul sent the message after his business received negative publicity following a fatal shooting near the club.

“One time, an OLCC inspector told me in private that blacks belonged in northeast Portland, not downtown,” according to the e-mail sent to OLCC director Teresa Kaiser. “I was furious with his statement and I thought he was racist. After seeing the violence of last Sunday night, I owe an apology to that inspector.”

Makboul did not disclose the name of the inspector and the comment in question took place eight years ago.

Kaiser received many complaints – including a letter from City Commissioner Sam Adams demanding a response – after the content of Makboul’s e-mail appeared in the Willamette Week newspaper and on the television news.

It led her to ask the Department of Justice to investigate.

“This allegation is so serious that you can’t let it lie,” said Ken Palke, spokesman for the liquor commission. “Perception is everything sometimes. We want to make sure the public understands that we are a state agency, and that our mandate is to represent everyone.”

Makboul and his brother, who owns the club, said in an e-mail to the Oregonian that the OLCC contacted them last week. The brothers say they told liquor regulators about the 1997 conversation almost a year ago.

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