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Fantasy business begins with outrage over licensing hypocrisy

With a catchy name like Sextasy, this club of suspicious pedigree set in the kinky crook of Commercial Center should be busy.

But unabashed love merchant David Cooper finds himself in a pickle these days as he attempts to legally operate Sextasy and compete for the affection, or at least the attention, of consenting adults seeking to mingle in an atmosphere more or less reminiscent of half the porn movies you’d never admit watching.

Why should you care?

Because Cooper’s problem again raises the issue of fairness at the Clark County business license office at a time when that department has been hit with allegations of ethical shoddiness and outright favoritism. Reports of juiced-in nightclubs moving ahead of less politically connected businesses have the department under scrutiny.

Cooper has a long history in adult-related businesses but hasn’t made his mark in the Las Vegas racket. He is sort of a Terry Gordon with training wheels. (Gordon is the pioneer of the Las Vegas B room, the nothing-for-something nude juice bar, the whips-and-chains den, and so forth.)

Cooper contacted me recently to lament the treatment he’s received from county business license officials. It’s a refrain I’ve heard from others, although Cooper is the first to describe his sex life to me between complaints about the bureaucrats.

Understanding that the county doesn’t license sex clubs, but seeing as how Sextasy is flanked by questionably licensed “health clubs” called the Fantasy Social Club and The World Famous Green Door, it made me wonder what Cooper possibly could have done to offend anyone’s sensibilities on that end of Sahara Avenue.

The Fantasy’s Web site calls it “The Ultimate In Social Clubs Where Consenting Adults Play Out Their Fantasies … In A Very Sexy And Intimate Club.” On its Web site, the Green Door offers voyeur rooms, group beds, a Jacuzzi, a chair with stirrups, but not a single Nautilus machine.

Cooper thought he was safe when he applied for five business licenses: book sales, video sales/rental, admission fees, gift/novelty at a nonresort and a category 2 restaurant. (According to county code, a category 2 restaurant is one ” … where meals are prepared or cooked on the premises and may be ordered from and served by waiters. … The restaurant must have a seating capacity for at least 12 persons at tables, booths, or counter.”)

When I dropped by Sextasy, it didn’t resemble any restaurant I’ve dined at. A bar offered juice and Red Bull. There was no kitchen. Most of the seating surrounded a Jacuzzi, a stage with a stripper pole and round bed with a gold synthetic cover.

(This probably reveals more about me than I’d like, but when I looked at the round bed my first thought was, “They must have trouble finding fitted sheets for that thing.”)

There were little rooms with big beds, but I didn’t see a single table setting. Who knows, maybe patrons were supposed to make their own sandwich.

I did meet Cooper’s wife, Virginia, and girlfriend, Elaine, as they lounged like cats on a long gold couch. They seemed like nice people. Tired, but nice.

To no surprise, Cooper’s distinct lack of an attempt to disguise his true intentions is also what the county’s business license officials noticed when they inspected the place. On Friday morning, the county denied Cooper’s business license application.

Cooper was irate. He cried foul. He shouted hypocrisy.

But I think he’s being unfair. Sure, county licensing officials say one thing and do another and look the other way at his competitors. But that’s because they represent a hypocritical system. It’s not their fault.

And just because they’re hypocrites doesn’t mean you don’t have to play the game. He blew the fantasy of county business license compliance, and you’d think a guy in the fantasy business would know better.

“We don’t license any sex clubs in the county,” said Nancy Hancock, county business license acting assistant operations manager. “So we’re probably going to have to investigate those (other clubs).”

By taking a stand, Cooper has not only ensured that he won’t be licensed without a long legal fight, but he’s forced officials to roust his neighbors. He’ll be lucky if someone doesn’t play out their Larry Holmes fantasy on his face.

And not even the most devoted love merchant looks sexy with two black eyes.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0295.

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