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Chris Sieroty

Clark County tables proposed changes to tavern ordinance

5 July 2012

A proposed rewrite of county regulations for taverns and slot halls went to the Clark County Commission on Tuesday only to be placed on hold pending resolution of a lawsuit brought by the operators of Dotty's Gaming & Spirits.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she submitted the proposed amendments to align county ordinances for taverns seeking Class A gaming licenses "more consistently with Nevada Gaming Control Board regulations."

The ordinance was adopted just 14 months ago amid complaints that Nevada Restaurant Services, which operates about 40 Dotty's taverns in Clark County, was creating a system of mini casinos, rather than having more traditional taverns with a few slot machines.

Giunchigliani and Commissioner Tom Collins last year voted against last year's overhaul, saying it is unfair to existing business owners.

The regulations say taverns must provide 2,500 square feet of open space for patrons. Giunchigliani's proposed amendment would change the requirement to 2,000 square feet.

Current rules require that a tavern have at least eight embedded slot machines, which are usually bar-top machines. The proposed ordinance eliminates the bar-top requirement if there is seating for at least nine customers.

Another change would require a tavern to provide seating for only 20 as opposed 25 patrons.

A tavern's kitchen would need to be "operated no less than 50 percent of the hours per day each day the tavern is open," Giunchigliani's proposal reads. Currently, the kitchen must be open at least 12 hours per day.

Giunchigliani said she had reached out to Station Casinos LLC, which lobbied for the 2011 ordinance, and others about a month ago to discuss her proposals and would do so again.

Nevada Restaurant Services filed suit about a month after the commission adopted the new rules in April 2011, claiming their due process rights had been violated.

Complying with the new regulations would violate the company's "reasonable expectation of entitlement to continue to operate without costly retrofitting obligations that the ordinance imposes," the company said in court documents.

It's unclear when the lawsuit will be resolved, but commissioners with little discussion voted unanimously to hold off on Giunchigliani's proposals until after it's settled.

The 2011 overhaul was supported by the Nevada Resort Association and the Nevada Tavern Owners Association, as well as several slot machine route operation companies. Messages left with the Nevada Resort and Tavern Owners associations on Tuesday were not returned.