County Commission considers outlawing news racks on Strip

The Strip might have a different look on New Year’s Day — one with no news racks along sidewalks.

Clark County commissioners are considering a proposal that would require the removal of all news racks from the world-famous Strip by the end of the year. The public — news rack owners, readers and otherwise — has a couple months still to voice their opinions.

Many of the news rack publications offer images of scantily clad women and advertisements encouraging tourists to check out strip clubs and escort services. But the county isn’t trying to determine whether the news rack publications carry all the news that’s fit to print.

The proposed ordinance would ban all news racks, regardless of whether they’re risque adult-themed publications or tamer fare. County officials say the measure is needed as part of a wider push to remove or relocate other obstacles along the pedestrian-clogged sidewalks of the Strip such as traffic signals and fire hydrants. (The Las Vegas Review-Journal isn’t affected, as it doesn’t have any news racks in the affected area.)

Even so, a decision to ban the news racks probably will end up in court. News rack owner Eddie Munoz of Strip Advertising said he will sue the county if the ordinance passes.

Munoz will need to wait until November to see if that’s necessary. The county will introduce the ordinance on Tuesday, with a public hearing and vote tentatively slated for Nov. 19.

“Our news racks are freedom of choice,” said Munoz, who owns about 300 news racks in and around the Strip. “When somebody goes to a news rack, it’s because they want the paper. It’s not being shoved in their face.”

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said he is aware that some in the news rack industry have concerns but added that the ordinance is needed to eliminate obstructions.

“It’s fair all the way around,” Sisolak said. “It will solve what we need to do, which is keep traffic flowing on Las Vegas Boulevard.”

He also noted that the proposal isn’t based on content and applies to all new racks equally. The proposal comes after the county completed a study that looked at the Strip and pedestrian movement.

Munoz and Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, also contend that removing news racks probably will lead to another problem: more handbillers passing out cards with advertisements.

“I have no doubt that getting rid of the news racks is going to exponentially increase the number of handbillers, and I don’t understand why the county would want that,” Lichtenstein said.

Though the potential ban applies to all publications regardless of content, there’s still reason for concern, he said.

“The ACLU is always concerned when a particular medium of expression is limited, because then we have less expression, not more,” he said.

Currently, the county issues permits for news racks. If the ordinance passes and the news racks are still up in violation on Jan. 1, the county would have the authority impound them immediately. An owner of a news rack could recover their property for an impound fee of $100 plus any reasonable additional county costs of impounding it.

As for Munoz, he noted an economic benefit that the county will lose with a ban in place: strip clubs, which generate tax dollars for the county, will lose out on advertising opportunities.

“There’s a lot of people that depend on our magazines,” he said.