Whether you were headed north or south on Highway 97 at Deschutes Junction just north of Bend, the brilliant shocking-pink building by the side of the road was pretty impossible to miss.
If the color didn't get your attention, the signs would: "LIVE NUDE GIRLS!!!" "Sensual Rubdowns," "Shower Shows," "Pole Dancing," and "Erotic Dungeon."
Other signs proclaimed that the old building, which more than a decade ago was home to Buffet Flat, a funky and quirky antique-cum-junk shop, was about to be reborn as the "Pussycat Ranch."
Like we said, the Pussycat Ranch wasn't exactly trying to be inconspicuous, so plenty of people saw it - and didn't like what they saw. The phone on the desk of Tom Anderson, head of Deschutes County's Community Development Department, was ringing almost non-stop last week with calls from people demanding to know what the hell was going on out there.
Anderson discovered that the proprietor of the Pussycat Ranch hadn't bothered to file for any permits before doing the paint job and putting up the signs. Eventually the county reached Ben Cunningham, who holds the lease on the property, and told him the signs had to come down. He took them down, but the county has cited him for violating its sign rules.
What's going to happen next seems to be up in the air. As long as Cunningham doesn't go ahead with construction on the interior of the building there will be no problem, Anderson says, but if he moves forward without jumping through the necessary hoops - including a public hearing - he'll be in trouble.
Bend already has a couple of sex-themed businesses, the Stars strip club, Pleasure World and the Pretty Pussycat lingerie and erotic toy shop - whose owner, by the way, emphasized that his business has no connection whatsoever with the Pussycat Ranch and he's really pissed off that the latter appropriated part of his name -- but they're relatively discreet and tucked away on 3rd Street in town.
The Pussycat Ranch, on the other hand, is like a blaring pink billboard at the northern entrance to Bend -- a billboard that would be more appropriate welcoming visitors to Vegas or Reno or someplace even sleazier, if such a place exists. So it's going to draw a lot of public flak.
Whether it will survive the flak is an open question. The Oregon Constitution gives wide free-speech latitude to strip clubs, so it probably won't be possible to block this one just because of the nature of its business. Which is okay with us; we're all in favor of free speech, and we're not squeamish about erotic forms of it.
We are squeamish, however, about enterprises that advertise themselves with such appalling garishness - especially when they're right at the entrance to town, and even more when their owners apparently feel they don't need to go through the normal permit process.
So here's THE BOOT for the Pussycat Ranch, along with a hope that its owner will decide to take it elsewhere. Or at least get a new paint job.