Phat Kat Tattoo owner Jeff Rahenkamp died Monday after being stricken with an illness in late June. - Mail Tribune / file photo

Tattoo parlor owner who had clashed with city officials dies

The colorful owner of a tattoo shop in downtown Medford who recently found himself at odds with city officials died Monday afternoon after complications from a stroke.

Jeff Rahenkamp, 38, had been ill since the end of June, but his health degraded rapidly after he contracted pneumonia.

"I am personally pretty brokenhearted," said Diane Raymond, a friend, business associate and executive director of the Heart of Medford Association. "It is a loss to the community. It really is."

Raymond said she held Rahenkamp's hand Sunday night and said goodbye to him as he lay unconscious at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

"It seems an absolute crime that someone with that much fight and that much vision is gone," she said. "He was larger than life, and he had such a colorful personality."

Rahenkamp was in the news last month after he angrily called Medford City Council members "morons" for opposing his plans to open a bar in the former Shenanigan's location on East Main Street. Shenanigan's multibar operation drew huge crowds but went belly up after it ran afoul of state regulators for a series of violations.

Rahenkamp later apologized to councilors for his remarks, but said he was giving up on his plans because of the city's opposition.

Rahenkamp was born on Dec. 21, 1974, in Medford and attended North Medford High School, then went to the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls.

Raymond, who has been in contact with his family members, said Rahenkamp, who had been working round the clock at his tattoo parlor and in his failed attempt to open the nightclub across the street, thought he had a bad flu bug at first.

"He did come down with pneumonia," she said. "Then, he had a stroke and his organs started to shut down. It just happened so quickly."

After getting two medical opinions, the family decided to take him off life support Sunday night, she said. He died at 2:55 p.m. Monday at the hospital.

Raymond said she was working with Rahenkamp as he developed plans for the former Shenanigan's bar.

She said he was extremely disappointed when the City Council, at the urging of police Chief Tim George, recommended the Oregon Liquor Control Commission deny a liquor license for his proposed nightclub based partly on his past actions.

"He recognized he was an imperfect person who made mistakes," she said. "He wanted nothing more than to give back to the community and show that a local boy made good. That was a huge disappointment for him."

On the Phat Kat Facebook page, many well-wishers expressed their support for Rahenkamp. An appeal also was made for donations to help finance the-up-to $100,000 medical bill for Rahenkamp, who didn't have insurance.

The first posting on the Phat Kat Facebook page related to Rahenkamp's condition was on June 28. According to the posting, Rahenkamp had fallen ill and had spent two days in the hospital and another day at the doctor's office.

According to a July 1 posting on the Facebook page, Rahenkamp's condition appeared to be stabilizing.

Then, on July 3, another posting by Phat Kat stated, "Jeffery Rahenkamp, the owner of Phat Kat, is still being hospitalized after his stroke and is not doing so well. He is in ICU still and we have a fund set up in his name at Rogue Federal Credit Union. ... He does not have any insurance and anything helps. Thanks."

Glenn Beatty, co-owner of Rocky-Tonk Saloon and Grill on Main Street, said he was in the process of organizing a benefit to help pay for Rahenkamp's medical treatments, but then his friend's condition deteriorated over the weekend.

"I'm in shock," Beatty said. "I did not expect this at all."

Beatty said Rahenkamp was a regular at Rocky-Tonk. "Some nights he'd close his bar and come over here," he said.

Rahenkamp previously operated a bar on Main Street known as Pub Ink. Beatty said he last saw Rahenkamp a few weeks ago. He said that even though he looked well, Rahenkamp was distressed about his run-in with city officials.

At Howiee's on Front in Medford, a donation fund had been set up over the weekend, collecting $365 so far to help offset Rahenkamp's medical bills, said Paula Tietge, who works at Howiee's.

"He was definitely well-loved," Tietge said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or

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