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Sunday, March 3, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Vegas Tavern Chain Balks at Tavern Laws

LAS VEGAS (CN) - Dotty's, a strip-mall chain of slot-machine-filled lounges, says its rivals launched a "crusade" to put it out of business and conspired with Clark County commissioners to make its profitable business model illegal.

Nevada Restaurant Services dba Dotty's has 21 businesses it styles as "taverns," offering a lounge-type setting and freestanding slot machines, throughout Clark County, Nev.

"Despite the severe downturn in Nevada's economy beginning in the late 2000s, Dotty's business has flourished," according to the federal complaint.

"Dotty's success caught the eye and ire of Stations Casinos, Boyd Gaming Corp., and their lobby the Nevada Resort Association and rival tavern operators, who got the attention of certain members of the Board and worked to propose laws to outlaw Dotty's successful business model, with the hope that displaced patrons from Dotty's will redirect their businesses to these competitors," the chain claims.

"Clark County Commissioner and Board member Steve Sisolak promptly became the public face of the anti-Dotty's crusade," the 28-page continues.

Sisolak questioned whether Dotty's was running taverns or "slot arcades" at a County Liquor and Gaming regulatory workshop last December, Dotty's says.

Within days after the workshop, the county board of commissioners imposed a moratorium on issuing new tavern liquor licenses, according to the complaint. Dotty's claims that the moratorium gave its adversaries time to hash out their plan to redefine taverns in the county.

The board collected four proposed versions of an amendment to the tavern laws in Clark County for consideration, without fully exploring the impact they would have on businesses, Dotty's says.

On the day prior to the Board's hearing to consider the amendments, "certain members of the Board met with the Nevada Resort Association and the Tavern Owners Association at the Board's offices and struck a private deal to support and propose only a single version of the bill," according to the complaint.

This "eleventh-hour deal" resulted in an amendment that requires taverns to install a bar, with no less than eight embedded machines, as well as a 25-seat restaurant, Dotty's says, and there were more demands to come.

On the day of the hearing, the board threw in a grandfather provision that would make an exception for those taverns that had received their licenses before Dec. 22, 1990, according to the complaint. The provision excluded Dotty's taverns, the first of which opened in 1995.

"The County took two weeks after the hearing to cobble together the language that purportedly tracks what the Board supposedly passed to create Ordinance L-252-11," which went into effect on April 19, the complaint says.

Dotty's filed its petition for writ of mandamus against Clark County and the Board of County Commissioners of Clark County, citing a lack of due process and equal protection. It is represented by J. Randall Jones with Kemp, Jones & Coulthard.

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