EDITORIAL: A Las Vegas entrepreneur’s success and how a bill becomes law

There is some dispute about the origin of the old adage regarding laws and sausages — that it’s better not to see either being made. But whether one credits Otto von Bismarck or lawyer-poet John Godfrey Saxe, it remains a relevant observation of the legislative — and sausage-making — process.

Consider the experience of Patty Peters and her late husband, Charlie. Their story highlights the reality of lawmaking that rarely makes the civics textbooks.

More than 15 years ago, the couple got the entrepreneurial itch and pondered starting a business. A friend suggested they take a look at a New Jersey operation in which customers came to make their own wine. “Every dream we had was right there,” Patty told the Review-Journal’s Heidi Knapp Rinella for a feature piece that appeared this week.

But when the couple returned to Las Vegas, they discovered that a state which sanctioned gambling, 24-hour liquor sales and even prostitution in certain counties had outlawed businesses like the one they had visited back East.

“Around 2002,” Ms. Knapp Rinella reports, “they started working to change the law,” eventually contacting Mike Schneider, a Las Vegas Democrat who at that time served in the state Senate. But Mr. Schneider quickly set the couple straight: If you want to get something done, curry favor with those who actually influence public policy. He sent her to a powerful player in the state liquor industry.

“If Larry Ruvo doesn’t want this to go, this isn’t going to go,” Patty recalls Mr. Schneider telling her. He was referring to the general manager of Southern Wine &Spirits, a politically well-connected outfit that held plenty of sway over Nevada’s alcohol laws.

Fortunately for Patty and Charlie Peters, Mr. Ruvo loved their idea and pledged his support. Lawmakers changed the statutes in 2005, allowing the couple to eventually open Grape Expectations in Henderson. The business has done so well that it moved to a larger home last year. She’s pondered opening a second location.

Perhaps eventually Grape Expectations will even be allowed to serve sausages with the German riesling.

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