COLUMN: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
August 6, 2000

Feeling safe in upscale restaurants

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing old friends who were in town for a wedding. After the ceremony they invited Lisa and I to join them for dinner at a restaurant of their choice.

After cocktails at my home, we departed in their car and headed east. As we turned onto the Strip I inquired what restaurant we were bound for and my friend proudly announced Piero's.

I yelled "NO! Anywhere but Piero's!" We pulled over and stopped. He curiously asked what was the problem? I told him that I would explain over dinner -- somewhere else.

We turned around and drove to the Aristocrat on Rancho and Charleston.

As we settled down for a wonderful meal I began telling my very curious friends about the reason I now avoid Piero's.

I told them about an evening in 1998 when I was at Piero's and ended up helping to stop a vicious fistfight while the owner and his staff stood by and watched.

Then I told them about the assault upon Bob and Summer Stupak at Piero's on Friday, August 25. Another violent incident that witnesses report was not broken up by restaurant staff, and how the assailants were later welcomed back to party in the bar after the police left.

I explained that over the years I have inherited many of Bob Stupak's friends and all of his enemies. I also explained that I prefer to spend my evenings enjoying good food in the company of friends in a comfortable, secure restaurant -- not being a referee in a free for all. Therefore I prefer to dine at the Aristocrat.

As we enjoyed appetizers, I introduced my friends to Jan, the restaurant's owner. I pointed out how Jan constantly circulated from table to table hosting his clientele and making them feel comfortable. I then ask Jan what he does when the mood changes and tempers begin to flare.

He explained that it is inevitable that patrons in any upscale restaurant will have differences, and that the signs are very obvious when paid attention to. Jan told us that one of the reasons he is constantly moving from table to table is to sense the mood of the room in addition to making sure that his patrons are happy with the cuisine and service.

Jan told us that he and his staff are always sensitive to raised voices and mood changes in his restaurant. He explained that such indications are easy to spot and curtail, and that he and his staff know what to say and do if and when they occur.

We settled back to enjoy our peaceful evening.

Over our main course I gave my friends an update on the latest local café gossip. I told them who goes where with whom, and why I prefer certain cafés away from the Strip. I especially enjoyed telling them the story about the afternoon I visited Bob Stupak at his unofficial "office" at the Aristocrat.

Bob was enmeshed in his Titanic project and wanted to bounce a few ideas off me, so he ask me to join him for coffee. When I arrived the Aristocrat had just closed following lunch service and Bob was sitting with his back to the door at his favorite table in the darkened dining room.

I took a seat that faced the entrance. Several minutes into the conversation the front door opened showering the dark room in sunlight. As my eyes tried to adjust I noticed the silhouette of a female entering. She sat down alone at a table across the room.

As my vision returned I noticed that the lone woman was Sandra Murphy. She asked the waiter for a glass of wine.

The reason I did not alert Bob to her presence was that she was then accused of murdering his best friend and I felt that he might confront her. I sat talking to

Bob but also watched Murphy over his shoulder sipping her wine for the next forty-five minutes. She then departed as suddenly as she entered. I have never told Stupak of this incidence.

Later that day I learned that Murphy had been indicted for murder that same morning. Even after being placed on house arrest, she continued to be seen at the Aristocrat. Judge Joseph Bonaventure later issued orders prohibiting Murphy from dining at her and the late Ted Binion's favorite restaurant.

This is just another legend that has made the Aristocrat one of our town's most beloved gathering places.

As our dinner drew to a close my friends thanked me for diverting them to the Aristocrat and for telling them the story about my silent encounter with Sandra Murphy.

Las Vegas offers a varied array of eateries ranging from the WWF to the Aristocrat. I'll chose the Aristocrat in a heartbeat.

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