COMMENTARY: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
May 22, 2002

Is the Fire Department being used as a political pawn?

On December 15, 1999, a concerned Meadows Village property owner sent a certified letter to former Las Vegas Fire Chief Mario Trevino. The letter was entitled "Overcrowding of nightclub and blockage of emergency engress/egress."

A copy of the letter was also sent via certified mail to Mayor Oscar Goodman. Amazingly, neither the Fire Chief nor Mayor responded.

The letter stated, "Enclosed please find a letter dated September 15, 1999, addressed to Deputy Fire Marshal Jeff Donahue and copied to Mayor Oscar Goodman. I am writing directly to you because, to this date, I have not received a reply to my previous letter. I believe that an emergency overcrowding condition exists at The Crazy Horse Too, 2476 Industrial Rd., an adult orientated business located near my property in Meadows Village.

I am in the transportation business so I often take patrons to this establishment, and in doing so I have observed what I believe is serious overcrowding on numerous occasions. As a former Bostonian, I can't help but remember the horrible Coconut Grove nightclub fire of 1941 that killed over 300 people in an overcrowded room with inadequate exits.

The Crazy Horse Too appears to be seriously overcrowded on the many occasions I have observed. I have also observed 50 - 100 persons waiting outside while cars and busses blocked emergency vehicle engress/egress to the building.

This business recently expanded by an additional 6,000-sq. ft. without obtaining permits until after construction was completed. The addition, which was stated to be for a private employee 'dressing room,' was immediately observed being used by the public with no additional parking space provided.

Therefore a reexamination and enforcement of the fire capacity and parking requirements is warranted at the Crazy Horse Too. The bar's limited parking facilities cause cars and busses to overflow into my neighborhood that often park illegally on private property creating a traffic and safety hazard requiring tow-aways. The most serious offenses occur after 9PM on weekends especially on Holidays and convention dates.

The letter ended by saying, "Please enforce fire capacity laws at the above establishment before someone is seriously injured or killed. Consider this letter a forewarning of a serious threat to the safety of the patrons of this establishment. If fire capacity numbers were at one time miscalculated or ignored, it is now imperative that such fire capacity limits be recalculated and enforced before a disaster occurs."

Three years after the letter, in 2002, there is a new Fire Chief, and Mayor Goodman is serving his third year in office. Meanwhile the same problems continue unabated at the Crazy Horse.

(It needs to be noted that Mayor Oscar Goodman was the former criminal defense attorney of Crazy Horse owner Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo's closest friends and business associates.)

Recently, Mr. Rizzolo purchased the shopping center that houses his bar and two adjacent businesses: Allstate Auto and Marine; and Buffalo Jim's Professional Wrestling School - businesses owned by Buffalo Jim Barrier.

It is well known that Rizzolo is seeking to expand his bar, but long-term leases held by Barrier are preventing him from doing so. Rizzolo has never offered to buy out Barrier's leases that are in good standing and have nine years remaining.

Immediately following Rizzolo's takeover of the property, City employees placed No Parking - Fire Lane signs on the side of Barrier's garage. Rubber cones were also placed to discourage cars from parking adjacent to the business, but after the sun goes down, the posted fire lanes suddenly become a valet parking lot for bar patrons apparently in direct violation of city fire laws!

Photographing several nights of violations, Barrier informed Chief David Washington who immediately dispatched a team of fire inspectors. After viewing the photographic evidence, one of the inspectors told witnesses that the new owner of the property was "politically connected." He also stated he would inform the property owner to cease and desist using the area for parking.

That night and every night thereafter, the fire lanes continue to be clogged with valet parked cars. The Fire Department has done nothing. In contrast, during the daytime operating hours of Barrier's business, garage customers who park in the area are threatened with being towed.

According to Barrier's lease, the landlord has the right to designate engress/egress lanes, but only the Fire Department has the authority to designate Fire Lanes. Then, why did the City of Las Vegas post the No Parking - Fire Lane signs adjacent only to Barrier's business? Did they do so to harass Barrier at the behest of Rizzolo's friend Councilman Mike McDonald?

Could this be a quid pro quo by Councilman McDonald in exchange for Rizzolo's generosity during past and future elections at a time when Rizzolo's competitors are getting the jump on him with new high tech $15 million palaces just down the road?

This is not the first time McDonald has used his office to try to help his friend's business. Remember Rev. Annette Rizzolo-Patterson's Universal Church for Life Enhancement that was allegedly created with McDonald's help to block Sig Rogich's topless bar application?

Mayor Goodman recently called me to deny doing his former clients a favor by helping Rizzolo. He also emphatically claimed he is neutral in Rizzolo's ongoing battle to evict Barrier to make room for expansion.

Since Mayor Goodman has been aware of the Fire Lane problem for more than three years, and because the Mayor says he's not doing his former clients a favor, I now ask our good Mayor to intervene in this transparent situation.

Mayor Goodman, for the sake of public safety, either enforce the No Parking - Fire Lane signs 24/7, or stop our Fire Department from being used as a political pawn.

Steve Miller, as a former City Councilman, was the author and sponsor of the Las Vegas Ethics in Government Law. Visit his website at: