Get the whip: County caught with licensing pants down

  When you’re in the business of role-playing, it’s important to remember your lines.

  Take the entertaining theater that takes place day in the valley between Clark County Business License officials and owners of local sex clubs.

  Fact is, the county doesn’t license sex clubs. It prefers to issues licenses for gyms, book stores, restaurants, juice bars and the like, then turn the other way while the businesses are operated as sex clubs. In exchange, the sex club owners are generally wise to keep up the false front and go along with the regulatory hypocrisy in order to get along with government bureaucrats who could easily shut them down.

  The county issues licenses, but the licensee must remember to keep a straight face. He must remember his lines and play the established role.

  Slap-and-tickle club operator Michael Powers forgot his lines recently, and I think it could return to haunt him.

  Powers owns the Power Exchange on Highland Drive. The Power Exchange isn’t licensed by Clark County as a BDSM (bondage and sadomasochism, that is) club because the county doesn’t issue such licenses. Sex clubs are illegal, even if the person’s sexual proclivities are bent toward whips and chains and the like. The county does, however, issue licenses for tanning salons and silk-screening shops, and Powers has licenses for such endeavors.

  The fact his store also features a dungeon and private areas where customers can role-play and get their spank on is something you’d presume he wouldn’t exactly advertise. You know, given the licensing issues and all.

  But you’d be wrong. In a recent issue of CityLife, the weekly owned by the company that also owns the Review-Journal, Powers let the cat-o’-nine tails out of the bag, so to speak.

  Powers: “It’s like [the Disneyland ride] Pirates of the Caribbean, but the pirates are having sex.”

  Well, shiver me timbers.

  Powers: "If I’m going to have a business that makes $2 million a year off people spanking each other, they want to make sure they’re getting their cut.”

  If you’re going to have a business that makes $2 million a year off people spanking each other, Mr. Powers, you’d better remember your lines.

  CityLife Managing Editor Andrew Kiraly: “The tanning business and clothing line, he reasons, give the government something specific to put on paper. As for what goes on in the rooms once men and women pay the entrance fee, Powers is laissez-faire.”

  Powers: “I’m like a gym. People pay a fee to use the facility, and what they do is their business."

  Oddly enough, legally it’s also the county’s business. And Powers broke one of the great unwritten rules governing the operation of a whips-and-chains joint, sex club, or sexual soak-and-poke around here: Don’t admit what goes on behind closed doors, or the county might be forced to close your doors.

  Last June, sex club operator David Cooper ran into a county steamroller after he failed to appropriately prepare his “restaurant” called Sextasy in the sleazy Commercial Center. It also hurt him that he was too free to admit the kind of business he planned to do there. The county shut him down. Since then, he hasn’t been shy about calling out the bureaucrats.

  “I think that story represents a full-blown admission of skirting the rules,” Cooper says.

  And what was good enough for him, Cooper says, ought to be good enough for the Power Exchange.

  When it comes to enforcing its own regulations, Clark County has never been very good at keeping its pants on.

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