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Chris Jones

Adult-Film Company Opens Las Vegas Nightclub

31 January 2005

One of the world's best-known adult film companies has set up shop on the Strip.

And while its patrons may get the chance to get up close and personal with a favorite skin-flick starlet, backers of Vivid The Club on Friday stressed their new nightspot won't jeopardize The Venetian's reputation with gaming regulators or conservative consumers.

"It's going to be a nightclub, nothing more than that," said Dan Sheridan, local executive vice president with General Growth Properties. "It's very consistent with what you see at other clubs in the Las Vegas market."

Sheridan's Chicago-based company owns the Grand Canal Shoppes mall, where Los Angeles-based Vivid Entertainment Group on Jan. 11 opened the multimillion-dollar nightclub in association with Ark Las Vegas Restaurant Corp.

The approximately 7,000-square-foot club, which is adjacent to The Venetian at the site of the former Venus nightclub and bar, overlooks the Strip. Its entrance is steps away from a second-level walkway that brings pedestrians across Las Vegas Boulevard South near Treasure Island and The Mirage.

Described by The Wall Street Journal as "the biggest name in pornography," Vivid is best known for distributing adult films with titles such as "Escape to Pleasure Island" and "Where the Boys Aren't." estimated company sales in 2003 were in the $150 million range.

Steven Hirsch, the company's co-founder and co-chairman, hopes Vivid's first nightclub venture will further expand the company's brand. If successful here, more Vivid clubs could soon open in other cities.

"It just made sense to us," Hirsch said. "The opportunity to be at The Venetian fits with our strategy of doing high-end projects."

More than five other Las Vegas-area businesses recently approached Vivid about similar projects, he added, though he declined to name those would-be suitors.

Hirsch also said his company's signature Vivid Girls, including Las Vegas native Jenna Jameson, will frequently mingle with customers at the club.

"Whenever they're in town, and that's often, they'll be hanging out there on a casual basis," Hirsch said. "People can interact with them on a much more casual basis than they could at a gentleman's club or (an autograph) signing."

Such opportunities have already caught the attention of state gaming regulators, a group that's recently made several high-profile attempts to clarify the boundaries between casinos' adult-themed activities and gaming operations.

In 2002, the Hard Rock Hotel paid the Nevada Gaming Commission a $100,000 fine after the Gaming Control Board said the Las Vegas hotel-casino failed to prevent public sex acts inside its now-defunct Baby's nightclub.

More recently, Hard Rock management in January 2004 was hit with a three-count complaint that said its advertising reflected poorly on the gaming industry and the state. In November, Hard Rock paid $100,000 of a possible $300,000 fine to settle that controversy, which was magnified by several grass-roots protests aimed at getting the state to crack down on sexually charged casino marketing.

Civil libertarians argued such a ban would violate First Amendment speech protections.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander was traveling Friday and could not be reached for comment on the Vivid the Club. Board member Bobby Siller, who championed the most recent case against Hard Rock, was also unavailable.

To prevent another controversy, Ark Senior Vice President Paul Gordon said Friday he and an attorney recently met with Control Board representatives to assure them the Vivid nightclub would not threaten The Venetian's gaming license. Those discussions ended positively, and he does not expect regulatory complications.

"We're not looking to push the envelope in any sense. We're just trying to have a nightclub that people can enjoy," Gordon said. "The Vivid brand promotes a lifestyle, and we hope to build off of that brand awareness."

The club's most-risqué element, he added, is live go-go dancers and holographic images of dancers projected on the walls.

"There's no sex angle," Gordon said.

A source close to the deal also said Ark's lease with General Growth includes certain "protections" that would safeguard the mall owner, as well as The Venetian and its parent, Las Vegas Sands Corp., should Vivid run afoul of state gaming regulators or other authorities.

"A lot of care has been taken ... to ensure nothing even close to adult entertainment will take place on the property," Sheridan said. "We're not concerned about any backlash."

Ron Reese, a spokesman for The Venetian, said resort management is confident the Vivid nightclub will not affect the property's commitment to luxury and sophistication.