Downtown church earns approval for special use permit

A small house of worship called Casa de Luz in the heart of one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods is doing measurable good.

The church, 2412 Tam Drive, set up shop in Naked City — west of Las Vegas Boulevard and north of Sahara Avenue just behind the Stratosphere, also known as Meadows Village — nearly four years ago. Founding pastor Dan Winckler said the ministry has made a significant impact on the wide-spread prostitution and drug dealing in the area.

“When we get to people on a frontline ministry basis, it has a big impact on lives,” he said.

Winckler cited Metropolitan Police Department statistics showing that in the last four years, incidents of narcotics activity dropped 81 percent, domestic disturbances dropped 61 percent and homicide and vandalism dropped 50 and 40 percent, respectively.

“This was the highest crime street in the city but not anymore,” Winckler said. “The neighborhood has really changed.”

The Las Vegas City Council approved a special use permit for the church in January to continue operations in the former apartment complex.

City Councilman Bob Coffin, whose ward is home to the church, said churches generally cause zoning issues in such areas as any gambling-, fire arms- and sex-oriented businesses have to be outside a certain distance of an establishment such as a church.

Because the property’s previous owner ran a pawn shop out of the old building, when the church moved in, the special-use permit was extended to Casa de Luz. Since then, the previous property owner closed the pawn shop and foreclosed on the property, resulting in the church’s need for a new special-use permit.

Coffin said that one of the most important requirements for a special-use permit is that the establishment be “harmonious and compatible” with existing, surrounding land uses, a requirement that Coffin believes the church meets.

“The church has been quietly doing its duty in the community for almost four years without much fanfare,” he said. “We want development to occur in this area … I made sure (Casa de Luz) would not pose any future problems.”

The old wooden pews sit outside under a pair of trees in the complex’s courtyard. Lined with religious murals, the makeshift chapel plays host to neighborhood residents waiting for food provided through donations by local charity Three Square. While they wait, one of the church’s five pastors delivers a sermon.

Ray Reeder, referred to by volunteers and members of the congregation as the motorcycle preacher, has been with the church for three years.

“Our mission first and foremost is to feed the people spiritually,” he said. “But we also physically feed 100 families every week.”

Reeder and the church’s small army of volunteers from all over the valley have bought into the type of “frontline ministry” the church is known for, Winckler said.

Reeder agreed.

“We speak to the people at their level,” he said. “Our doors are open to everybody to come as they are. You don’t have to get cleaned up. As long as you’re here, He does the rest.”

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Nolan Lister at or 702-383-0492.

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