The lawsuit over bars on the Fremont Street Experience was poised for a settlement Monday until a meeting at Las Vegas City Hall grew contentious and the settlement went belly-up, leaving City Attorney Brad Jerbic frustrated.
“This is as close as we’ve come to a resolution,” said a visibly irritated Jerbic, who had worked with the parties over the weekend to reach a resolution.
Now it will be up to the Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday to try to resolve how to handle a related ordinance. As written and passed by three council members who make up the recommending committee, the bill doesn’t make all the parties happy.
Instead of laying the groundwork to settle casino owner Steve Burnstine’s lawsuit against the Fremont Street Experience, the city and downtown hotels belonging to the experience, the new language simply cleaned up the ordinance, saying that up to two bars are permitted on the Fremont Street Experience outside properties with tavern licenses.
It would include language grandfathering in existing bars on the mall, making the Golden Gate and Binion’s happy.
The lawsuit would be dismissed, making city officials and Fremont Street officials happy.
An amendment authored by the city attorney’s office would give Burnstine, who owns Mermaids and La Bayou, the right to have one bar each in front of those places on his own property. He was fighting to allow those bars to move out onto the mall, claiming his constitutional rights were threatened by the Fremont Street Experience’s management of the mall.
The amendment also would allow a bar outside the Girls of Glitter Gulch, Burnstine’s third property on the mall.
At first the amendment seemed to make all parties in the 4-year-old lawsuit happy. “This would be the end of the lawsuit,” Jerbic said.
Fremont Street Experience President Jeff Victor affirmed that “there would be no problem with him (Burnstine) building on his own property. That’s absolutely no problem. … We’re highly motivated to get out of this lawsuit. We’re willing to lease kiosks (to Burnstine).”
Then Burnstine’s attorney Jim Jimmerson said he disagreed with Jerbic that this was a “global settlement.” Now Burnstine also wants the city to vacate an alley it owns so the Girls of Glitter Gulch can have a bar that fronts his strip club and goes around the corner.
Jimmerson asked for some time to resolve the issue with city officials.
Jerbic objected, saying “a delay interjects uncertainty” in the case and exposes the city to action by the judge who has stayed an order that the city begin enforcing its ordinance limiting the bars to one instead of two.
He predicted that further delay requested by Jimmerson will cause the case to “continue forever.” He said there “always seems to be one more issue.”
The recommending committee approved the ordinance without the amendment Burnstine wanted, one way to encourage settlement before Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
The lack of resolution is hurting some downtown properties that depend on the outside bars to make a difference between profit and loss, said Terry Murphy of Strategic Solutions, acting as a consultant for the Fremont Street Experience. The bars on the mall “contribute significant revenue to some places’ overall profitability,” Murphy said.
Contact Jane Ann Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0275.