I’m a bum, a mope, a know-nothing jerk.
What’s the matter with me, picking on the hard-working cab and limo drivers of this community?
My mother, if I had a mother, would be ashamed.
The subject is the developing story I’ve taken to calling the topless/taxi war, which finds local skin cabarets peeling off up to $100 per customer and more to local transportation drivers. The topless joints are in heated competition, and some drivers are making a quick score by directing customers to the clubs that pay the most cash.
At the risk of catching an earful, I was only pointing out the increasingly high stakes when I wrote about the subject. Now not only are the drivers agitated, but it appears the club owners are, once again, rallying in an effort to cut the drain on their gaudy cash flow. Tips to drivers cost some clubs as much as $80,000 a week, and the drivers are forced to kick a large percentage of their money to door personnel.
Who knows where it goes from there?
To a front-door supervisor, a speed-dialing concierge, or quick-thinking casino host, perhaps?
I’m following the story, not making it. Since everyone from the Taxicab Authority to the Strip casino resort bosses is in a hurry to do nothing, maybe the greenback hustle is no big deal and won’t eventually haunt the gaming industry. Yeah, maybe.
The IRS has been aware of the setup for years. Casino executives have known about it and occasionally go to the extreme effort of issuing a stern memo despite the fact their employees are hustling the hotel guests.
The strip club owners have failed in the past to curtail the taxi-limo serenade. It turns out those club owners don’t trust each other.
Local and state government officials, well, they’ve taken a decidedly docile stance. Macy’s mannequins are more assertive.
One business group, which I imagine includes some club owners, has announced it will push for legislation making the activity illegal. Attorney Al Marquis, who represents a group calling itself Fairness In Transportation, says an enforceable law can be drafted. Marquis, too, expressed bewilderment at the lack of attention the activity has generated from agencies whose duty it is to regulate transportation.
Changing the current system might help the topless cabaret moguls, and it could save certain casino resorts major embarrassment should some of their white-collar guys be exposed for nicking a pinch of the proceeds. But the drivers aren’t the culprits in this war; they’re just the soldiers.
One cabdriver pulls me aside, rhetorically speaking, and tries to talk sense to me.
“What I just can’t get my arms around is the big deal with the taxi business and the strip clubs,” he writes. “Let’s see, we have corrupt politicians, gang killings, drugs out of control, extreme budget problems, homeless issues. So why in the hell is the taxi/strip club issue even worth writing about? We both know this is a town about ‘money.’ … I do know that one of the major goals of the newspaper is to instigate controversy so that is one possible reason you have written more than once on the subject. The other is you may possibly have a fascination with the cab business.”
Come to think of it, I did watch “Taxi” a lot as a kid.
Driver Mike laments the fact most cabbies these days are “shut out of the kickback scheme because of the collusion between the doormen and the limo drivers. Limo drivers are permitted, against the law, to scour the cab lines, pluck out strip joint rides, and leave the rest for the cabbies. They then return and split the money with the doormen. If a cabbie gets one of these plum rides it’s either an accident, or he managed to sell the ride to the passenger.”
He also says he recently confronted a doorman after watching him cut a side deal with a limo driver to send four riders to a topless joint for a quick $400 score. The anger between drivers and door personnel is mounting, and the strip clubs are adding fuel to the fire by regularly increasing their incentives.
I’m just a bum, a mope, and a jerk, but I know this much: Where there’s that much untaxed money, trouble is rarely far behind.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith/.