CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Story update, Thursday: https://www.chronicle1909.com/posts/4423/do-not-drink-up-tjs-owner-didnt-approve-plans

CRESWELL – A celebratory “shot and a beer” could have a different meaning this July 4 holiday.

The soon-to-be owner of TJ’s Family Restaurant, who said he is playing host to an all-day Fourth of July celebration on the site, won unanimous approval on Monday night from the Creswell City Council to serve alcohol outside during the event.

The vote came after councilors discussed the scheduled event that has drawn interest from paramilitary, anti-government extremists, who have posted and promoted flyers on social media platforms calling for “patriot” groups to come to Creswell on the holiday. 

Robert Jensen, one of the new owners of TJ’s, previously told The Chronicle his event was non-political; he has not returned messages the past two weeks.

Jensen was approved for a “Temporary Use Permit for an Annual Licensee,” which allows him to expand the on-premises sales of alcohol on July 4 from noon-11 p.m. The sale and consumption must be within a fenced perimeter, inside the parking lot.

Discussion concerning details for spacing, parking, and fireworks raised concerns among councilors following Lane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Denham’s “letter of recommendation” and cautionary comments at the meeting.

Denham said he gave his approval for the license on the premise Jensen would take the necessary public safety measures to monitor capacity limits and has had no complaints filed against him in the past. Planning for controlled capacity limits is an issue of concern, Denham said in the recommendation letter.

“The applicant has told me that he will have monitors working in the area to make sure that all the alcohol is consumed within the area, and it doesn’t leave that space,” said Roberta Tharpe, city employee.

Councilor Alonzo Costilla asked Denham if he had a “game plan” to ensure that public safety measures are met.

“What will you guys do if you’re concerned? I’m concerned,” Alonzo said.

“We can’t make a big game plan until we have a better idea of size and scope, other than what we see posted on social media,” Denham said. “But obviously, anything that happens could grow larger than the capacity for it to be there, so that’s what we’ll be watching.”

A de-centralized manner of organization on social media has made it difficult to fully plan at this time, Denham said, noting he’s concerned about the flyers calling for larger groups of people to travel to Creswell. 

Councilor Kevin Prociw said that parking at TJ’s would be a challenge, and customers would likely need to park elsewhere. “With all that parking space being used, where are people parking? Are there any concerns about traffic or congestion in the city?” TJ’s is located near the I-5 interchange, Exit 182.

Denham said he had been told two different things regarding July 4 parking in the old Super 8 lot, which abuts TJ’s parking lot. He said further communication is needed to know if there is permission from the motel property owner.

Community member Theresa Brubaker wrote to councilors with her opposition to the parade, fireworks, or temporary licensing to TJ’s restaurant, in fear of the “extremist hate group” it could attract.

Denham said the fireworks are planned to be set off at Bald Knob where they can be viewed from the field between TJ’s and I-5, with food carts, vendors and a play area. Mayor Amy Knudsen said she was worried about fireworks near the dry field.

“By default the property owner is responsible if aerial fireworks start going off without a permit,” Denham said. “I believe that he will use his alcohol monitors to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Meanwhile, the reconstituted Creswell Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting a fireworks display from the old Bald Knob Mill property on Highway 99, is reaching out to new members.

Board members sent an email to area businesses last week, stating:

“We are actively working on ... a plan to re-open our office with limited hours, reaching out to local businesses and introducing ourselves, updating our website, soliciting comments/suggestions from our members, and exploring opportunities to support educational and work training efforts.”