COMMENTARY: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
August 1, 2001

Crazy Horse and the Battle of Little Big Horn

In 1876, the Battle of Little Big Horn (Custer’s Last Stand) was considered one of the biggest blunders in military history by resulting in the extermination of 266 officers and men including Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.

In 1997, the Nevada Department of Transportation issued an Environmental Impact Statement on the widening of Industrial Road to six lanes. The project is expected to commence at the completion of the Sahara Avenue, I-15 overpass reconstruction that is presently underway.

The widening of the road to over 100 feet is expected to cause major hardships for several adjacent property owners including the taking of some driveways and entrances now fronting the roadway. One of the properties expected to be affected is a strip center owned by Renata Schiff, a successful restaurateur and proprietor of the upscale Renata's Restaurant in Green Valley.

Schiff's Industrial Road property is just north of the Sahara overpass and includes the leaseholds of Buffalo Jim Barrier and Frederick Rizzolo.

Buffalo Jim, a Native American, has happily conducted business in his 13,000 feet of leased space for the past twenty-two years and has eight years remaining on his lease. He pays only 43 cents per square foot, a true bargain in this day and age.

Located between Barrier's auto repair shop and his wrestling school is Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too topless joint. Rizzolo is reported to pay Schiff much more rent per foot than Barrier for 26,000 feet of converted warehouse space and storefronts.

When Industrial Road is widened to ease traffic on the Strip, the present front entrances to Barrier's and Rizzolo's businesses are expected to be eliminated. This will have little effect on Barrier’s businesses but is expected to cause a major problem for Rizzolo.

Sources report that Rizzolo has been showing off blueprints of a proposed free standing Crazy Horse building with new entrances in place of Barrier's leaseholds. Competing topless clubs located along Industrial Road now have lavish entrances located on the sides of their buildings and the Crazy Horse’s plans reportedly show a similar arrangement.

Rizzolo says he once offered Barrier $100,000 to move out, though Barrier denies ever receiving any offer.

Since the supposed offer, the hard feelings between Barrier and the topless club owner intensified with no peace pipe in sight!

Both men filed lawsuits against one another after Renata Schiff tried to evict Barrier's businesses. She later dismissed her action when Barrier included her in a RICO lawsuit.

He alleged that Rizzolo, Schiff, and various city officials including Councilman Michael McDonald and former mayor Jan Jones conspired to put him out of business to enable the expansion of the topless club.

Barrier suspects collusion because in 1999, Tribune stories revealed Jones as a frequent visitor to Rizzolo’s home, and McDonald living rent free in a half million-dollar golf course villa owned by the family of one of Rizzolo’s business associates. When the names of Jones and McDonald were included in Barrier’s racketeering suit, Rizzolo retaliated with pesky slap suits against Barrier and the Las Vegas Tribune for what he called "libel."

As the lawyers continue to pour gasoline on this fiery feud, one obvious question keeps surfacing: why hasn't Rizzolo or Schiff offered to buy out the remaining years of Barrier's lease? Barrier reports that he has always been open to a fair offer. Simple mathematics may answer that question.

Barrier pays only 43 cents per foot for space that is renting elsewhere for at least $1.25. He also has two well-established businesses at that location. If Rizzolo and Barrier wanted to accommodate each other's needs as gentlemen, what would be the fair market value to pay Barrier to move on?

Based on comparable rent for nearby commercial space, the difference between what Barrier is now paying and what he would be paying elsewhere with a new lease is at least 82 cents more per foot. Translated into monthly rent it would take at least $10,700 per month in additional rent for Barrier to reopen elsewhere.

Projected over the eight years Barrier has left to enjoy his very low rent at his present location, the difference would amount to a total of $1.23 million in rent above what he is now paying. This estimate does not include his moving expenses, downtime, and the cost of advertising the move to his steady customers.

Based on Rizzolo's purported offer, Barrier is not budging and time may be running out for the Crazy Horse. Several out-of-state gentleman's club operators are presently scouting for locations in the valley while two new upscale gentleman's clubs are expected to open near the Crazy Horse within a year; Sig Rogich's Boardroom, and Mike Galardi's Jaguars.

Its speculated that if the Crazy Horse is unable to purchase Barrier's leaseholds in the very near future, the entrance to the nightclub will be forced into an alley making it noncompetitive. This may open the door for the new, upscale clubs to take over the older club’s clientele.

Buffalo Jim is sitting in the catbird seat and he knows it! He says he has no intention of selling below market value and feels he’s secure with his low rent and steady business until 2009 when his lease expires.

In the meantime, as this contest of wills unfolds, many believe that Frederick Rizzolo may end up feeling like George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. Visit his website at: