City penalizes two nightspots but lets them keep licenses

Two Las Vegas nightspots kept their business licenses Monday but were put on notice that any reappearance of reported problems — including fights, underage drinking, and public nudity and sex — would lead to them being shut down immediately.

The cases once again had public officials drawing a line of acceptable behavior in a town that markets itself as the mecca for “anything goes.”

“If they came to us to be licensed for anything that goes, we would probably license them,” Mayor Oscar Goodman said. “We just want to make sure that they comply with the law.

“If we give them a license for one thing, they’d better just do that one thing and not go beyond.”

In a specially called meeting, the Las Vegas City Council imposed penalties on Snick’s Place, near Third Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, and Club 2100, a dance club near the intersection of Fremont Street and Eastern Avenue.

Snick’s Place was originally investigated by gaming regulators, who filed a complaint listing several instances of nudity and public sex in the bar’s common areas between April and June 2008. The Nevada Gaming Commission fined the business $50,000 and suspended its gaming license for six months. Council members added a $15,000 fine and ordered the business to close from Oct. 3-17.

That penalty was narrowly approved by a 4-3 vote, with council members Ricki Barlow, Lois Tarkanian and Steve Wolfson opposing the measure. Barlow called the punishment a “tap on the wrist.” He and Tarkanian said the bar should be shut down.

“Can I mention these things in public?” Tarkanian said, before reading from a list that included sex, oral sex, nudity and masturbation. “Oh my goodness.

“I can’t believe that the ownership of this establishment wouldn’t have known these incidents were occurring.”

The owner, Dominick Vitale, told council members that his bookkeeper used to monitor security video to cut off unacceptable behavior. After the employee died in 2006, Vitale said he neglected the monitoring. He fired the bartender on duty during the episodes as soon as he was informed of them.

“Would you characterize this as the behavior of an animal house?” Goodman asked.

“An animal house?” Vitale responded.

“A zoo house,” said Goodman, who later demanded, “Are you ashamed of yourself?”

“I am ashamed of what happened,” Vitale said.

Club 2100 wasn’t punished as harshly for a list of alleged violations that included erotic dancing, multiple police calls and employees without the necessary work cards. Council members were very critical of the owner, Dominic Laino, and said he wasn’t taking his club ownership duties seriously.

The council voted 5-2 to impose a $10,000 fine. The club’s license will be reviewed every three months, and it’s only allowed to have a DJ — considered “live entertainment” on Saturday nights.

Barlow and Councilman Stavros Anthony voted against the punishment.

“It sounds like you didn’t take this seriously right off the bat,” Anthony said. “I don’t think you know what you’re doing.”

Laino and his attorney contested many of the complaints filed against him, saying that the security situation is improving, that there was a misunderstanding about what the restrictions on “live entertainment” prohibited and that he’s working hard to keep an investment going in a distressed part of town.

One of the photos in the city’s records — of a woman on a dance floor exposing her genitals — didn’t take place in his club, he said. And Laino contended that there’s never been exotic dancing.

Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese pointed to another photograph featuring two young women in bikinis splashing in an inflatable pool on the club’s dance floor. That was from a “pool party” promotion in which women who showed up in bikinis got perks, Laino said.

“You don’t call that live entertainment?” said Reese.

“I didn’t know dancing and contests were live entertainment,” Laino said.

Keeping entertainment within bounds has also been an issue on the Strip, where Clark County business licensing officials have issued notices to nightclubs that allow topless dancing or other behavior considered “lewd.” Most recently, the liquor license for Privé nightclub at Planet Hollywood was threatened because of reported nudity at the club and also because security staff delayed officials trying to check the property’s compliance with county codes.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

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