PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Northeast Portland’s blues-and-jazz hotspot, the Blue Diamond, made it through COVID. But since August 2022 the venue has been targeted by thieves multiple times who made off with thousands of dollars. Last week, the bar was hit again — and this time the ATM was ripped from its bolts and stolen along with thousands of dollars from the safe.
“When the ship’s sinking, the musicians are playing. We need music to get through hard times,” said Sonny Hess, who co-owns The Blue Diamond with Jamie Hess. “We have survived so many things being here.”
In the August case, one of the suspects caught on camera, Yarin Zachary Taylor, was arrested in late September. But court records show there are now warrants out for his arrest after he was released but didn’t return to court.
In the theft from last week, Hess said she’s not sure it’s the same suspect as before. Nearby bank surveillance caught multiple suspects dressed in all black with their faces concealed, leaving in a van with no plates, she said.
“It does seem like these guys were a little more professional. This is what they do,” said Hess. “The cop said even if we would’ve gotten that, it’s really, really hard to identify people with hoods on and masks and in black and with a van with no license plates on it.”
They’ve made changes since the break-in.
The owners decided not to have the ATM replaced, no longer keep cash on site overnight and have the lottery machines removed. They were afraid they would continue to be sitting targets since the businesses don’t receive insurance for the cash-filled lotto machines.
“We aren’t given insurance to have them here or anything so it’s like the cash that’s in there, basically is cash and if it’s on hand, it’s an invitation,” Hess said.
The loss of the cash and the insurance issues make it hard for small businesses like The Blue Diamond to bounce back.
“Our deductible is high and then once the robberies happened, it just keeps going up because they look at you like you’re a target, so they canceled us,” said Hess. “We got another insurance right now and of course, our insurance payments are high because we’ve been robbed and this is now the third time.”
The Hesses took over the longtime venue in 2017 and hope to continue the legacy, but worry what another hit could do.
“This is a milestone. This is referred to as the gem of Portland. We took pride in that when we purchased it,” said Hess. “There’s such a network here for this small place, and that, to me, that’s all my heart’s about is music. To have to close and say ‘No, you have nowhere else to perform, the Diamond is no more,’ it’s definitely a scary thought and something that we will do everything we can do to have that not happen.”
Members of the local music community are coming together for “The Diamond’s in the Rough”, a goodwill event filled with performances, with proceeds going back to The Blue Diamond. The event is set to kick off around 1 p.m. on Jan. 29.
“It makes us feel good,” said Hess. It “makes us know we have done the right thing regardless of what happens.”