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Chris Jones

Vegas Drag Queen Club Clears Hurdle

15 April 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Donald Troxel's quest to open a drag-themed nightclub in downtown Las Vegas came one step closer to reality this week after the Ohio businessman reached an agreement to lease space inside the former Trolley Stop casino.

Troxel's planned Celebrity Las Vegas cabaret would occupy about 10,000 square feet of the approximately 24,000-square-foot building at Third Street and Ogden Avenue. The remaining portion of the site would be divided to include a separately owned steakhouse as well as a second nightclub, he said.

Troxel said his business, which he hopes to open in November, will include a showroom, lounge, outdoor patio area and gift shop. The project would be modeled after the Celebrity Show and Dance Club, a popular late-night venue Troxel owns and operates in Dayton, Ohio.

Last year, Troxel agreed to lease space at the struggling Neonopolis retail and entertainment center, though that deal fell through in the fall after Troxel claims that center's management team told him it was uncomfortable hosting a venue whose clientele would be largely homosexual.

Representatives of Parsippany, N.J.-based Prudential Real Estate Investors, which owns Neonopolis, denied Troxel's discrimination claims.

However, without disclosing a reason, the company recently ended its management contract with JSS Advisors, a New York-based management firm whose employees were central to Troxel's failed lease bid at the struggling Neonopolis center.

Troxel, who is homosexual, also claimed his sexual orientation and the nature of his planned business were cited as reasons that kept him from leasing a vacant restaurant space controlled by the Fremont Street Experience.

Officials from that organization also denied Troxel's claims.

"I'm glad to finally get all of this over with," Troxel said Wednesday. "Now I'll be glad to go through the contractors and get things over with, which will be a lot because the place will probably be gutted" before Celebrity Las Vegas can open.

Andrew Donner, whose Third Street Promenade limited liability company plans to operate the former Trolley Stop site, on Wednesday declined to discuss further his company's plans for the building.

Celebrity's decision marks the second time in recent years the former Trolley Stop site has been pegged to house a cross-dressing cabaret. In fall 2000, a trio of local businessmen told the Review-Journal they planned to open a business there called the Bird Cage cabaret.

Modeled after a 1996 Robin Williams movie titled "The Birdcage," plans called for a 22,000-square-foot restaurant and bar, slot machines and a service staff dressed in drag. However, financial shortcomings and permitting problems prevented the Bird Cage from opening, onetime investor Eldon Garrett said recently.