On August 21, Mayor Oscar Goodman succeeded in gaining unanimous council approval for his controversial proposal to allow certain city adult businesses to expand within 1000 feet of each other. Mayor Goodman said he proposed the ordinance because of the city's plans to widen Industrial Road to six lanes, however, only one adult business is located on Industrial Road within the city limits - the Crazy Horse Too.
Within a few days of the passage of Goodman's ordinance, an eleventh hour attempt was made to evict one of the businesses owned by Buffalo Jim Barrier in order to make way for the Crazy Horse's expansion.
Barrier operates two businesses that flank the topless bar. Both have leases that are stopping the bar from expanding. Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo, the owner of the shopping center and the bar has never offered to buy out Barrier's remaining leaseholds. Therein lies the problem.
The Nevada Department of Transportation is soon expected to use eminent domain to take the bar's front entrance and most of its parking lot thereby putting the topless bar in peril.
Buffalo Jim's Professional Wrestling School has occupied the space immediately north of Rizzolo's bar since August 1998. Barrier's other business, Allstate Auto Repair, has occupied the same space since 1976, long before the Crazy Horse went into business next door.
"He wants me to move out for free. He's the cheapest guy in town," stated Barrier when asked if Rizzolo had ever made him a financial offer to relocate.
Barrier claims that Rizzolo has begun a pattern of harassment to try to encourage him to move without compensation. In defense of his leases, Barrier has sued Rizzolo for harassment.
On August 27, less than a week after Goodman's ordinance went into effect, Rizzolo's attorney Tony Sgro sent Barrier a "Thirty day notice to vacate" the wrestling school stating that his lease had previously been "terminated" on August 1. In addition to the notice, Barrier also, without explanation, received an invoice asking in advance for the September 2002 rent on the school. Barrier had earlier paid his August rent feeling his lease was secure because in April he had notified his landlord in writing that he was exercising his option to lease the space for an additional year starting August 1. Rizzolo says he did not receive the notice.
However, Barrier showed the Tribune a notarized statement from the accountant of his previous landlord saying he had given notice in April. He also has evidence that Rizzolo had also received an additional notice following him taking over the center on May 1, though none was necessary because Rizzolo's purchase agreement stated that he would honor all existing leases.
In addition to the eviction notice, Barrier's employees have filed notarized affidavits with the court and Metro Police stating that someone cuts off the water supply to Barrier's businesses each morning and reconnects it each evening thereby stopping toilets from flushing and evaporative coolers from working. Police say they are investigating the charges.
Barrier considers these latest actions additional examples of harassment.
On August 6, District Court Judge Lee Gates denied Rizzolo's motion to dismiss Barrier's harassment lawsuit. A trial has not yet been scheduled but Barrier believes that Rizzolo's actions have cost him in excess of $100,000 in lost business, attorney's fees, and intentional inflection of emotional distress. Barrier reports that he is under a doctor's care for stress related symptoms.
In his complaint, Barrier states, "(Rizzolo) breached (his) covenant of quiet enjoyment when (he) actedů in a manner that substantially interfered with Barrier's beneficial use or enjoyment of the leased premises constituting a constructive eviction of Barrier."
Barrier blames this latest problem on Mayor Oscar Goodman. He says that his lease was perfectly good until the day the city council voted to allow Rizzolo to expand within 1000 feet of Cheetahs, another adult club located on Western Ave.
Before being elected, Goodman was the criminal defense attorney for several of Rizzolo's business associates.
The Thirty-Day Notice dated August 27 stated; "Your landlord RICRIZ, LLC has not consented to extending your lease. Consequently, your lease terminated on August 1, 2002." The bill for September's rent was attached to the notice.
In a previous warning letter dated May 31, attorney Dean R. Patti, Sgro's partner, referred to children and their families as "loitering on the premises" when they attended Saturday afternoon televised matches at Barrier's wrestling school. The letter ended by warning, "Should you repeat this activity without prior landlord approval, RICRIZ, LLC, will be compelled to terminate your lease." Barrier never repeated the activity.
Patti's letter infuriated wrestling fans that on June 8 held a well-publicized protest in front of the topless bar. During the protest, TV news reporters interviewed Rizzolo who stated, "Get an insurance policy, get a fire permit, and get a permit to do that and I'll let him do anything he wants." Rizzolo made no mention of eviction.
In disagreement with Rizzolo's TV statement, Sgro categorically charged in his August 27 letter, "This (loitering) activity, among others, violated your lease and constitutes grounds for eviction."
"I wish he would make up his mind why he's trying to evict me," Barrier told the Tribune. "This whole mess will have to be ironed out by the judge before I consent to move out."
Barrier's attorney, Gus Flangas, last week filed a motion to determine the validity of the eviction notice. However, several local attorneys have already disagreed with Sgro's action.
The attorneys believe that because RICRIZ, LLC had accepted a rent payment and billed for a future month along with not previously rejecting Barrier's two notices to exercise his option, and because Barrier fully complied with the warning to not allow families to continue "loitering on the premises," Rizzolo's eviction is not valid and Barrier can remain in the leased premises until at least August 1, 2003.
The dilemma? This will prevent Rizzolo from expanding the Crazy Horse for at least one more year while new, competitive gentleman's clubs open nearby.
"I am fully confident that the judge will see that this is not a valid eviction," said Barrier last week on KLAS TV News. In the meantime, Barrier says he will continue to conduct wrestling classes until the court makes its decision.
©1997-2002 Las Vegas Tribune