Expansion of Topless Bar Stymied by Old Leases

Las Vegas Tribune

May 15, 2002

By Steve Miller

RICRIZ-LLC became the legal owner of the shopping center that houses the Crazy Horse Too topless bar on May 1, but the new landlord is quickly learning that he may have to wait until 2010 to expand his adult business. That's when the leases expire on two businesses that flank both sides of the Crazy Horse, leases that if not bought out can stop his plan to build a new $15 million dollar topless bar.

After spending $5.5 million for the 2.63-acre strip center on Industrial Road, Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo, the new owner, started showing plans for his new building. Next, he ordered his attorney, Dean Patti, to notify adjacent tenants their long-term leases were no longer in effect; their rent was doubling and their status was now month to month.

According to lawyers representing the tenants, 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.

Buffalo Jim Barrier, owner of Allstate Auto and Marine and Buffalo Jim's Professional Wrestling School, has leased storefronts adjacent to the topless bar for the past 18 years and says he has no intention of moving unless he is bought out at market value.

Barrier told the Tribune that both his businesses are turning a profit and it would be impossible to relocate based on the inexpensive rent he now pays. Barrier also claims that he properly exercised his options to renew his leases each year since 1999 in accordance with an agreement made years earlier with his former landlord, Renata Schiff. Rizzolo accepted this agreement in the purchase contract with Schiff Properties; however, even this information did not stop Patti from informing Barrier last week that his leases were no good!

Upon being informed of Patti's notice to Barrier, Gus Flangas, Barrier's attorney, 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 inform 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." (A District Court judge dismissed a prior eviction action filed against Barrier.)

In the meantime, Rizzolo's competitors are busy expanding their gentleman's clubs, one located nearby on Industrial Rd., the others on Desert Inn and Flamingo Roads.

The nine years remaining on Barrier's leases are estimated to be worth over $1.5 million though Rizzolo has never offered to pay Barrier to move. However, the possibility of the use of eminent domain has been mentioned as a way to expedite Rizzolo's plans.

Rizzolo is well known as a generous political campaign contributor. He is currently the chief fundraiser for District Attorney candidate David Roger and has been known to contribute between $75,000 and $100,000 per year to his favored candidates for Judge, DA, and Sheriff.

Rizzolo is also known to be a close friend of Las Vegas City Councilman Mike McDonald who participated in the 1996 eminent domain taking of the Pappas family's Downtown land and leaseholds, however, sources close to Mayor Oscar Goodman told the Tribune that the City of Las Vegas would never use its power of eminent domain to help the expansion of a topless bar.

Even with this assurance, tenant's attorneys have informed the Tribune that the Washington, DC based Institute for Justice, an agency that is known for defending Fifth Amendment private property rights, has been asked to monitor the Crazy Horse situation in the event government intervenes to try to force Barrier out.

Frederick Rizzolo and Dean Patti did not return calls for comment on this story.

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