COMMENTARY: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
October 16, 2002
"There has got to be a way to get back at people who file lawsuits. There has never been a suit filed that we haven't beaten and I'm hoping our record will stay that way." - Bart Rizzolo, August 1, 1997
So far, Mr. Rizzolo has had to eat his words on four occasions.
RICRIZ-LLC, on May 1, became the legal owner of the shopping center that houses the Crazy Horse Too topless bar and two businesses owned by Buffalo Jim Barrier that flank the bar. Rick Rizzolo and his father Bart purchased the 2.63-acre strip center on Industrial Road for $5.5 million under the impression that by doing so they could cancel existing long-term leases to make way for the expansion of their adult business. They quickly learned they were ill advised!
Even before buying the property, Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo was showing plans for his new mega-topless bar. As soon as the purchase was complete he ordered his attorney, Dean Patti, to notify Barrier that his long-term leases were no longer in effect; his rent was doubling; and his status was now month to month.
Patti apparently did not realize that the long-term leases were in good standing and paid up to date, therefore he could not arbitrarily re-designate them as short-term to clear the way for his client's plans. Barrier has leased space in the center since 1976 and says he has no intention of moving unless he is bought out at market value. Rizzolo has never offered to buy him out. Therein lies the basis for Rizzolo's latest defeat in court.
On August 27, Rizzolo's lawyer filed an eviction notice ordering the BWF Wrestling School, one of Barrier's two businesses, out in thirty days. Barrier's attorney Gus Flangas immediately responded with an Affidavit for Hearing in Justice Court. On Wednesday, October 9, a judge stayed Rizzolo's eviction.
This was not the first failed attempt made to evict Barrier to make way for the bar to expand. In May 2000, Barrier's former landlady, Renata Schiff, ran afoul of the courts when she attempted to remove Barrier to provide more space for Rizzolo.
Barrier says both his businesses are turning a healthy profit and it would be impossible to relocate based on the forty-three cents per square food rent he has enjoyed for the past 26 years.
Upon being informed of Patti's notice to Barrier, Flangas immediately dispatched a messenger to Patti's East Charleston office to inform him that he was in error. Flangas wrote Patti: "According to your letter, your client is rejecting the checks forwarded to you for Mr. Barrier's lease payments. Your letter further states that your client is raising Mr. Barrier's rent. Please take note that your client's refusal to accept the payments and attempt to raise the rent is a breach of the respective lease agreements."
Flangas' letter went on to educate Patti, "Your client's claim that Mr. Barrier never renewed his Leases is simply not true. Enclosed with this letter are copies of the applicable lease renewals dating back to 1999." Flangas then stated, "This alone should lay to rest the issue. In addition, your predecessor (Renata Schiff) acknowledged the validity of the Leases in open court."
Nonetheless, Patti persisted in trying to evict Barrier.
Rizzolo's competitors are busy building new gentleman's clubs - two located within blocks of the aging Crazy Horse. Both clubs are expected to be open by next summer. No wonder Rizzolo is so desperate to build a new, high tech, club!
However, the latest failed eviction has stopped his plans to expand the Crazy Horse until at least September 2003 when the BWF Wrestling School's lease is due for renewal and the competitive clubs have already opened. Even if the wrestling school lease is not renewed, Allstate Auto Repair's lease is still in effect until 2010 and Barrier says business has never been better. It should be since he pays at least two-thirds less rent than his competitors thereby letting him charge his customers lower prices.
When asked if all the aggravation is worth it, Barrier responded "For forty-three cents a foot, I'll put up with the nonsense."
On November 14, 2001, a judge refused to issue a gag order also filed by attorney Patti to bar the Las Vegas Tribune from writing about Rizzolo's legal travails. Rizzolo, in addition to his problems removing Barrier, faces at least two serious personal injury lawsuits; one for an alleged wrongful death; the other for an alleged beating that paralyzed a bar patron. Both stories were extensively reported in the Tribune but received scant coverage in other media.
In the meantime, on June 19, the Tribune exclusively reported that Barrier filed a Harassment lawsuit against Rizzolo. On September 6, Rizzolo's attorneys made a motion to have the Harassment lawsuit dismissed. District Court Judge Lee Gates denied their motion.
The Harassment suit accuses Rizzolo of “Continually interfering with Barrier's quiet enjoyment of their respective premises, wherein for example, there are numerous incidents involving Crazy Horse patrons being intoxicated and disorderly outside the Crazy Horse premises, there are numerous fights and beatings taking place, and there is trash strewn about the area by Crazy Horse patrons."
Barrier, a former pro wrestler, believes that Rizzolo is purposely pestering him and harassing his customers to force him to move out. And, despite Bart Rizzolo's claim "There has never been a suit filed that we haven't beaten," the courts have so far agreed with Barrier.
The trial for the alleged wrongful death of Scott David Fau is scheduled to begin on January 6. The trial for the alleged beating and paralyzing of Kirk Henry has been continued, and Barrier’s harassment trial date has not yet been set.
Visit Steve Miller's website at: http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com