Adult club fights for its license

It’s not hard to see why the Libertine club in Las Vegas has been raising some eyebrows since it opened in February. It’s an adult club that boasts, among other things, a bondage studio, various fetish nights and a boutique that sells toys hard to describe in detail in a mainstream newspaper.

The club’s owner, Edward Hurt, said the club attracts hundreds of people who are interested in “alternative lifestyles.” Hurt said he offers customers a safe haven where they can freely express their sexuality.

However, the club also has attracted the attention of the Clark County district attorney’s office, the county’s code enforcement officers and Las Vegas police.

“If people don’t understand or accept something, then they tend to think it’s wrong, corrupt,” Hurt said.

The district attorney’s office, which is trying to close the Libertine, filed a lawsuit in April that claims the club lacks a business license and is operating as an illegal sex club. County lawyers also have argued in a court document that the Libertine’s customers “are encouraged to engage in dangerous sexual practices.”

Hurt said the county wouldn’t be trying to close him down if he were running a mainstream business like a sporting goods store. He claimed the county is trampling on his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression.

One of the club’s biggest opponents is its next-door neighbor. The club is on Pecos Road near Sunset Road in an area with small businesses, storage facilities and several vacant offices. Its neighbor is Studio 34 Dance Academy, a children’s dance studio, and the two businesses share a parking lot and sidewalk.

The dance studio’s owner, Amber Sorgato, has complained that the Libertine’s patrons are out in the open for the entire world to see — including parents and children who go to her studio.

According to a court document, Sorgato claims women dressed in corsets and tights have pranced in front of her dance studio and used its windows as mirrors to fix their outfits.

In one instance, according to the document, a 7-year-old from the dance studio wandered accidentally into the Libertine because the student mistakenly believed the sex clothes on the wall of the club were dance clothes.

Hurt adamantly denies that ever happened.

Sorgato complained to the county, Las Vegas police and County Commissioner Rory Reid, but she refused to comment when contacted by the Review-Journal.

Attorney Allen Lichtenstein, who is representing the Libertine with attorney Conrad Claus, said there’s a simple reason the club doesn’t have a business license: The county isn’t playing fair.

Lichtenstein said the club applied for a business license on Feb. 8. He said the county’s zoning department approved the application on Feb. 29, but the Libertine still needed approval from the Fire Department before it was granted a license.

But strange things started happening, Lichtenstein said. On March 5, agents from the business license department went to the Libertine and served a cease-and-desist order on Hurt and the club. However, the order named the landlord, Biloxi Investments, and its manager, Diane Casano — not Hurt and the Libertine.

Then on April 11, the 45-day deadline for the county to act on a business license application passed without the county taking action on the Libertine’s license, Lichtenstein said. That meant the county could not reject the application, the lawyer said. But the county denies it missed the deadline.

Claus, who is handling the case for free, criticized the county for cracking down on a business it deems unsavory.

“The game the county is playing is very much in line with its not-so-hidden agenda,” he said.

However, county officials argue that they are operating by the book. In court documents, Deputy District Attorney Robert Warhola called the Libertine an illegal sex club. The county code defines a “sex club” as a business where wife swappers, swingers or others can go, pay a fee and engage in or view consensual sexual activity.

On its license application, the Libertine is described as a “motion picture” or film production company. But Warhola argued that the club is really a sex club with a functional dungeon and other racy activities.

According to a report by the business license department, an investigator determined that the Libertine wasn’t intending to operate as a motion picture studio but as an adult business. The report also showed that the department’s manager and assistant manager recommended that the club be denied a license on April 11, which was within the 45-day period.

Jacqueline Holloway, director of the business license department, recommended that the club be denied a license on April 14, the report showed.

But to Hurt, who has sunk at least $150,000 into the club and spent months perfecting it, the license denial has as much to do with violations of his First Amendment rights as with code violations.

He sums up his argument simply: “Freedom. It’s about freedom of speech. Ultimately, I believe we have something to offer the community.”

Disputes between sex-oriented businesses and the county are nothing new. In 2002, the county enacted a zone ordinance defining and prohibiting sex clubs. The county is currently in a legal fight with a reputed “swingers” club in Las Vegas, The World Famous Green Door.

Lichtenstein, who also represents the Green Door, said the county’s ordinance is so vague as to make it unconstitutional. By the county’s definition, he said, a motel or hotel could just as easily be considered a sex club.

“Why aren’t they going after Caesars?” he asked.

He said the Libertine also operates as a movie and photography studio, just not a traditional one.

The Libertine’s situation is made more complicated because its landlords are Biloxi Investments and Terry Gordon, the reputed “king of tease.” Gordon also is the landlord for the Green Door. His brother, Jack Gordon, notoriously tried to bribe Reid’s father, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, in 1978 when Harry Reid was the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Terry Gordon said businesses like the Libertine are easy targets for county officials because sex-oriented businesses are generally unpopular. Gordon is also named in the county’s complaint.

He said the county is engaging in harassment. What consenting adults do in private shouldn’t be the government’s business, he argued.

Hurt said he is, in a way, being punished for the sins of previous tenants. For example, county officials claim the Libertine was operating last year because they found an ad for a club at the same location in an October 2007 issue of the alternative weekly Las Vegas CityLife. But Hurt said he had nothing to do with that club, called IBC.

The Libertine owner said he’s trying to be a good neighbor. The club has adjusted its hours on Saturdays so that it opens when the dance studio closes. Saturdays are busy days for both businesses.

Hurt said he wants to be sensitive to his neighbor’s concerns.

The owner, who is married and has a 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, said his children are still too young to understand what he does for a living. Although he let them help paint the club when it was under construction, he won’t let them enter it now.

“Would we let them gallop through?” he said. “Absolutely not.”

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Naft sworn in to Clark County Commission
Michael Naft, chosen by Gov. Steve Sisolak to be his replacement on the Clark County Commission, was sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas police piecing together details of fatal shooting
Six hours after the fact, Las Vegas homicide detectives worked to reconstruct the scene of a shooting early Jan. 7 that left one man dead in the southeast valley. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dyer Lawrence explains college football playoff system proposal
Las Vegan Dyer Lawrence has a new idea for a college football playoff system that includes a unique scheduling component called National Call Out Day. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death row inmate Scott Dozier found dead in his cell
Nevada death row inmate Scott Dozier is dead. Dozier’s death ends his legal odyssey, which began in 2007 when he was convicted in the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller, but does little to clarify what’s next for Nevada’s death penalty.
I-15 southbound near Primm closed after ‘major crash’
A rollover crash Saturday morning involving at least nine vehicles on southbound Interstate 15 near Primm caused an hourslong traffic delay. Traffic was backed up to Sloan, live traffic cameras show. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death Valley visitors deal with shutdown
Visitors staying at the Furnace Creek Campground were forced to move from the campground following health and safety concerns due to lack of resources during the partial government shutdown at Death Valley National Park in Calif., on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph
Half of homicides in Henderson for 2018 domestic violence related
Lt. Kirk Moore of the public information office of the city of Henderson police department speaks to the Review-Journal in Henderson, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Henderson saw a slight increase in homicides in the past year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak stops by Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak kicks off his tour to Carson City, which will take him from Las Vegas, through Tonopah, and up to the capital city. First stop is the Downtown Boys & Girls Club.
Certificates for renewing wedding vows in Clark County
The Marriage License Bureau in Clark County began issuing a Certificate of Vow Renewal to married couples who are renewing their wedding vows on Jan. 3, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas flu season better than last year (so far)
Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief medical officer and director of clinical services at the Southern Nevada Health District, said there were 24 flu-related deaths at this point in the flu season. No deaths have been reported so far this year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Las Vegas Valley’s First Baby of 2019
The first 2019 baby in the Las Vegas Valley was Melialani Chihiro Manning, born at 12:10 a.m. at Henderson Hospital. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Snow in Henderson on New Year's Eve morning
Light snow flurries in Anthem Highlands in Henderson on Monday morning, the last day of 2018.
Sources: Henderson Constable may face more charges
Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell may face additional charges ... stemming from his spending of county funds, sources said. Mitchell was indicted earlier this month on five felony theft and fraud charges ... after a Las Vegas Review-Journal story questioned his spending. But grand jury records show even more extensive spending including ... an $800 dinner at steakhouse ... nearly 200 atm withdrawals mostly at gambling establishments ... and even Disneyland tickets. But his attorney plans to ask a judge to dismiss the charges.
Las Vegas NYE Restrictions and Enhanced Security
If you are planning to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street, be aware that you are not allowed to bring backpacks, coolers, strollers or glass. There will also be an increase in security to ensure safe celebrations across town.
Catholic Charities serves up 53rd annual Christmas dinner
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and more than 100 volunteers served 1,000 Christmas meals to Southern Nevada's homeless and less fortunate. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @kmcannonphoto)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jeffrey Martin Added To Nevada's Black Book
Martin was one of four men convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016 in Clark County District Court and sentenced to prison. The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously Thursday to include Martin in the black book.
Raiders Stadium Timelapse
Construction on the new Raiders stadium continues in Las Vegas.
Buffalo Wild Wings security video
Security footage from a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in southwest Las Vegas captured a driver who repeatedly crashed into a vehicle in a failed attempt to squeeze into a tight parking spot.
The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village's Magical Forest added 1 million lights and a synchronized music show visible from all over the forest this year. The holiday attraction, which began in 1991, has a train, rides, food and entertainment along with the light displays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Navigating the new I-515 southbound to 215 Beltway ramp configuration
After opening at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, the new Interstate 515 southbound to the 215 Beltway westbound freeway ramp configuration caused confusion amongst motorist. Here’s how to navigate the new ramp. (Mick Akers/ Las Vegas Review-Journal).
A record breaking donation of nearly $9 million to Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada
A record breaking donation of property valued at nearly $9 million was made to the Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada by the Charles and Phyllis M. Frias Charitable Trust. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal. @bizutesfaye
Kerry Clasby thanks the community for support after California fire damage
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about the lessons of accepting help as she has gone through the Woolsey Fire disaster, in which she lost many of her belongings. About 100 people were on hand for an event that raised about $7,000.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like