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Business News: City cracks down on trivia events, costing businesses thousands of dollars

By Bob Conrad
Reno Business Weekly

Longstanding trivia games in local bars recently took a major hit. City of Reno staff determined businesses that have been hosting trivia nights now have to get an expensive cabaret license if they want to continue.

A handful of businesses, since April 1, 2022, have since stopped hosting the events. And they have taken financial hits as a result. Local pubs and employees of the local business, DJ Trivia, which has operated for years unfettered by city restrictions, have lost money.

That’s because the city decided trivia games fell under a code provision that considers the events live entertainment.

“It only recently came to our attention that these activities were occurring without the proper licensure,” said the city’s Lance Ferrato. “As you know, many of your clients are properly licensed and it isn’t fair to allow those who are not licensed to have the same privilege without going through the approval process and paying the associated fees.

“We have spoken with multiple municipalities in northern and southern Nevada and all have confirmed that this would be considered live entertainment in their jurisdictions and therefore licensable,” Ferrato added

One local business owner said he is out thousands of dollars as a result of this decision.

“It’s a bummer for local bars trying to bring back their crowds because the cost is prohibitive for a lot of them.”

Bret Schaeffer owns 395 Craft Beer & Spirits in the North Valleys.

“I was told by the city of Reno and [the city’s] Ashley Turney, that [trivia events] always fell under this and that there was a complaint about DJ trivia,” he said. “We’ve seen our nightly Wednesday sales have gone down on the average of $600, which isn’t good, especially for our employees. Their tips have been cut in half. We only have one person doing a Wednesday now because there’s no need for that since we don’t have DJ trivia.”

The decision, he said, also impacts neighboring businesses that have seen decreased sales as a result of his reduction in customers.

“Now the employees don’t have money to spend when they go out and about in the city,” Schaeffer added.

DJ Trivia employees took a hit from the city’s decision.

Conor McQuivey hosts the events for DJ Trivia at three local venues. After the city’s decision, he’s down to just one. He called the city’s decision shortsighted and said the choice ironically also hurts the city.

“The city decided to target a handful of small local businesses a few weeks ago with completely outrageous fees that don’t really apply to what we do at DJ Trivia Nevada. Not sure who the heck decided to bring down the enforcement hammer after all these years,” he said. “It’s a bummer for local bars trying to bring back their crowds because the cost is prohibitive for a lot of them. [It] feels like a casino monopoly thing if they’re the only ones who can realistically afford it.”

City staff would not produce copies of complaints about trivia events to This Is Reno as part of a public records order. They said This Is Reno has to provide addresses of affected businesses in order to produce the records.

Vickie Musni, who runs DJ Trivia, said the city’s decision should be, according to city rules, appealable by affected businesses.

“These small businesses are being denied their right to appeal,” she said during today’s public comment during a Reno City Council Meeting. “None of the appeal clause language was included in … the information they received.”

Some locations are trying to change their games from trivia to bingo in order to get around the new restrictions, a source told This Is Reno.

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