The Reno City Council yesterday approved an effort to tighten up rules against adult businesses downtown. The controversial effort received widespread community support from those who view the ordinances as a way to clean up parts of the city and reduce alleged negative effects from adult businesses.
Assistant City Attorney Chandeni Sendall outlined the city’s case to change existing ordinances that would, critics said, cripple if not eliminate many of the city’s adult businesses. The ordinances would remove alcohol sales at strip clubs within six months of passage, put tighter controls on signs, and potentially force them to move to more industrial areas.
The city’s case to heighten restrictions against the clubs is supported by courts and case law, Sendall said.
It was revealed that the city’s case also included hiring a private investigator, in anticipation of litigation against the city, who infiltrated adult businesses seeking evidence of criminal activity.
This point was raised by Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus. City Attorney Karl Hall said that information was confidential under attorney-client privilege. He refused to discuss the investigator’s report.
Reno Police Chief Jason Soto, however, said there are no active criminal investigations of the clubs, and police calls to adult businesses are no greater than any other similar-sized businesses downtown.
Former Mayor Bob Cashell hinted that the city could get in trouble if it goes after the Men’s Club, which would be affected by the proposed ordinances, located near the Aces baseball field. The field, he said, would not exist if the Men’s Club property had not been a part of a land deal that made the baseball field possible.
“The land that we inherited with (the ReTRAC project) was land that we traded with the gentleman that owned the land where home plate is,” he said. “So we couldn’t have gotten the baseball deal if we hadn’t made a deal with him. The city got some great value (from the deal).”
Mayor Hillary Schieve said she was unaware of that information.
The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDWAN) favors the ordinances.
“Downtown is the one area that’s holding us back,” said EDAWN CEO Mike Kazmierski. “Of the hundreds of people that I have talked to — and it literally has been hundreds — I cannot name one person that likes or wants strip clubs in our downtown.”
A number of people followed Kazmierski and spoke against the ordinance changes. Mark Thierman, attorney for local strip clubs, has threatened litigation against the city should the ordinances get passed.
“Legally, you’re wrong,” he said. “There have been no secondary effects proven. There is so much stuff in there that doesn’t make sense.”
Mark Wray, attorney for the Men’s Club, also spoke against the ordinances.
“The ‘secondary effects’ of the Men’s Club are positive,” he said. “Despite being in the heart of the neighborhood where the homeless population congregates, the Men’s Club building and grounds are extremely well maintained. The on-premise signage is discrete and tasteful.
“In fact, we encourage you to compare the cleanliness surrounding the Men’s Club versus the cleanliness surrounding Reno City Hall.”
The council took votes on separate parts of the ordinances, ultimately passing each. The votes directed staff to further develop the ordinances, which will have to be heard and approved twice by the council at later dates.
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