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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

City grants Treasures a permanent license
The battle of the juice machines...

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
February 21, 2005

It was early 2000 when I received a call from a source on the tenth floor of Las Vegas City Hall telling me that Presidential advisor Sig Rogich was wandering the halls. Its not uncommon for persons with big connections to be given Carte Blanche when it comes to making unannounced visits to local public officials, but it was Sig's purpose that most intrigued me.

Rogich was part of George W. Bush's original election team. Also that year he was trying to peddle an office building he had owned for many years located on a parcel of land that was highly visible from Interstate 15. Sig had received an offer from Texas based gentleman's club owners Ali and Hassan Davari, an offer considerably above market value for an office building.

Because the Davari's had something much more lucrative in mind, their dream would take as much political juice with the Mayor and Council as the juicemeister could wrangle. It would also obviously require top secrecy for Rogich to stay in the good graces of Mr. Bush.

As soon as I heard that Sig Rogich was lobbying for a topless bar license in order to up the value of his land, I wrote one of my E-Briefs on the subject. Within the hour Sig called to ask why? I told him that a Presidential advisor lobbying politicians to obtain a liquor license for a topless bar was very newsworthy. He asked if I thought he had the right to ask for zoning that would bring his land up to its "highest and best use?" He brought up the fact that I own land on which a gentleman's club is located and also benefit from my land's highest and best use. I agreed that he had every right, but questioned his timing especially while he was advising a candidate running for President of the United States? When I ask him why he couldn't wait until the election was over, the call abruptly ended.

The cat was out of the bag. Several days later the story hit the Washington Post. Consequently, Sig was reportedly removed from the Bush campaign. But that's only the beginning. Sin City was about to witness the battle of the juice machines.

During the Council meeting that granted the adult use license, Councilman Michael McDonald mysteriously left just before the item was called. McDonald is a close friend of the person who would be most impacted by the competition Rogich proposed.

After the meeting, McDonald began to sneak around City Hall asking peculiar questions such as how was it determined that Rogich's property was outside the 1,500 foot circle separating adult businesses from schools and churches, and what if a church were to open within that circle prior to construction of the gentleman's club?

McDonald quietly ordered staff to remeasure the distance from a nearby school. Had he not done so over a weekend, his order may have gone unnoticed, but when reporters learned of staff working overtime at the whim of an elected official, the story began to gain interest. The remeasure confirmed that the property was just outside the 1,500 foot circle.

Undaunted, plan-two immediately went into effect and a "pop up church" opened in a warehouse located across the street from the Rogich land.

The "Universal Church for Life Enhancement" began holding Sunday services during the summer of 2000 -- part of an obvious scheme intended to squelch Rogich's sale. But when the name of the church's female Reverend was revealed by an inquisitive Las Vegas SUN reporter, her bible suddenly hit the fan!

(L to R) The Reverend Annette Marie Patterson, Ralph & Bart Rizzolo
listen to FBI agent during raid of their topless bar on February 21, 2003

( photo by Mike Christ)

The Reverend
Annette Marie Patterson's pulpit was standing directly in the way of a fifty million dollar gentleman's club! But who was this woman of God? Was she actually doing the Lord's work?

By total coincidence,
the Reverend was none other than the God fearing sister of Rick Rizzolo, the owner of the nearest topless bar.

                     Rizzolo's aging topless bar

It was now becoming obvious that forces within City Hall were out to secretly scuttle Rogich's land sale, forces emanating from the office of Mike McDonald, a Rizzolo sycophant who pretended to be a friend of Mr. Rogich.


Rogich, always the gentleman, remained silent, but somehow the story of Reverend Patterson was splattered all over the newspapers within a day. So was the secret pact between McDonald and the Reverend's brother. At the time, Rizzolo wanted the City or State to use its power of eminent domain to remove a long time neighboring business to make way for the expansion of his topless bar. However, the Rizzolos didn't need the adverse publicity, nor did they want to anger the all powerful juicemeister at such a sensitive time, so they denied any involvement.

Soon, the "church" was removed, and construction on Treasures began. But that didn't end the problems.

After Treasures opened, Rizzolo's aging bar was drained of business. Soon, the City of Las Vegas and the Metropolitan Police Department descended exclusively on Treasures finding all manner of infractions. In the meantime, Dateline NBC did an expose' on violence at Rizzolo's bar while the FBI and IRS gathered evidence to close it down and jail its owners.

    Rick Rizzolo and Al Rapuano
( photo by Mike Christ)

But the City and Metro focused only on Treasures during the Summer of 2004. Also that Summer, Rizzolo's business was the subject of Federal Grand Jury testimony from a local attorney and a San Diego tourist who both said that
during the month of August they were threatened or beaten up there. However, the City and Metro turned their backs on the beatings and adverse TV exposure with the Mayor going so far as saying "I did not see that" when asked if he watched Dateline NBC's schocking segment. The officials were obviously too preoccupied with Treasures to care about what was happening just down the street.

Also by coincidence, Rick Rizzolo employs a number of former criminal defense clients and possible future clients of the law firm owned by the Mayor, his partner, and his sons.

To no one's surprise, Treasures was closed down by the City on September 15, 2004. Also to no one's surprise, business immediately returned to normal at Rizzolo's bar.

Seeing the writing on the wall and knowing how Sin City officials can abuse their power, I began writing INSIDE VEGAS articles about Treasure's closure and soon received a request to meet with the club's management.

Inside the closed nightclub,
I gave them two suggestions: That they fire their Vegas attorney because he was obviously more interested in maintaining friendships with the Mayor and Council than serving his client's needs. And, that they immediately sue the City Council in Federal Court for selective enforcement using the Dateline NBC segment as evidence, something their local attorney refused to show during the license revocation hearing possibly for fear of offending the Mayor and his associates, some who may need a good criminal defense attorney in the near future.

Treasures management did as I suggested and the tables began turning in their favor.

Then, in an unrelated incident
on January 19, 2005, FBI and IRS agents arrested Rizzolo's swing shift manager for racketeering and income tax evasion. A few weeks later, Rizzolo's right hand man walked out, possibly to become a Federal witness. The front page stories said more indictments are iminent.

All of a sudden, Rizzolo's juice machine went dry and polticians began giving him the cold shoulder.

The Davari's new out of state attorneys sued the City of Las Vegas in US Federal Court for selective enforcement. A local judge ordered the Council to schedule a new license hearing. Fearing a court loss for their questionable actions, the Council on Wednesday, February 16 voted to grant Treasures a permanent license. Treasures reopened for business at 8 PM that evening and dropped their federal law suit the following day.


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