INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
January 13, 2003
Mobbed-up Vegas Bar Hits Barrier
Expansion Plans Stymied by Long-Standing Garage Lease
Buffalo Jim Barrier in front of artist rendering of postponed topless club
After years of speculation, the Crazy Horse Too topless bar in Las Vegas
recently announced plans to build a new building,
but hit a legal barrier with a coincidental name.
Facing overwhelming competition from two newly constructed mega-gentleman's
clubs that just opened less than a half mile away - the $40 million dollar
Sapphire, and the $25 million dollar Jaguars, along with the soon to open
$15 million dollar Board Room that's within walking distance - the aging
Crazy Horse recently failed to evict its long-time next door neighbor,
Buffalo Jim Barrier, to make room for a new free standing building. The
present topless bar is located in a converted 1960's era warehouse.
For years prior to the Crazy Horse Too's 1984 opening, Barrier's Allstate
Auto Repair prospered peacefully in the industrial complex. Barrier opened
his garage in 1976, and still has nine years remaining on his lease.
Until May 2002, Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo,
the Crazy Horse Too's purported owner, rented space next to Barrier in
the dilapidated building on Industrial Road a half mile west of the Vegas
Strip. Then, Rizzolo shocked real estate experts by paying an amazing $5.5
million for the 2.63-acre property. Experts believe he paid considerably
more than market value since the property is located in a high crime area,
has inadequate parking, and is adjacent to the railroad tracks, but Rizzolo
didn't seem to care, there were bigger plans afoot.
In his purchase agreement, Rizzolo
initialed a page that clearly stated he would honor existing leases including
Barrier's. However, by his actions it appears Rizzolo was ill-advised and
thought he could evict the garage owner immediately upon taking possession.
Before the ink dried on the purchase agreement, Rizzolo's attorney Dean
Patti was busy trying to evict Barrier. To his dismay, Barrier's attorney
Gus Flangas easily convinced a judge that his client's lease was in good
standing. This was not the first failed attempt to evict Barrier to try
to make way for the bar to expand. In May 2000, Barrier's former landlady,
Renata Schiff, failed in court when she attempted to cancel Barrier's lease
to provide more space for Rizzolo. Renata's late husband, Jim Schiff, was
Barrier's sponsor and gave him a sweetheart deal on his rent that continues
to this day.
Thanks to Schiff, Barrier pays only forty-three cents per foot monthly
for his ten thousand square foot garage, an amount considerably less than
rent for comparable street front locations. The twist? Barrier claims Rizzolo
never offered to buy him out, but engaged in a pattern of harassment
with help from friends at City Hall to try to coerce him out of the building
"Why should I move now when I pay the cheapest rent in town? This way
I can charge lower prices for my mechanical work," said Barrier, 49, a
former professional wrestler who brags that his mostly low income customers
love him and that business has never been better. "All the publicity I
get for holding my ground against my politically
connected landlord has attracted new customers who support my stand.
I'd be a fool to be scared away from my successful business when I can
stay here until I retire in 2010."
Barrier is a single parent of four daughters and plans to pay for their
college education with proceeds from his business. "I ain't going anywhere
for free while I still have a valid lease," bristles Barrier.
Rizzolo claims he once offered Barrier $100,000 to move, but said he
was refused. Barrier says he has never received an offer and that the nine
years remaining on his lease is worth in excess of $2 million. He said
he would have to pay as much as $2.50 per foot for equal space nearby.
Experts estimate the difference between Barrier's present rent and what
he would pay for similar Industrial Road frontage over the next nine years
to be approximately $1.3 million not including his mounting legal fees,
down time, moving, and advertising costs. Therefore, Barrier's asking price
to relocate is considered fair market value.
"I don't understand why Rick didn't approach me years ago like any legitimate
businessman would do. If he did, his palace would be open today to compete
with the newer clubs, but instead the Horse looks like an old nag in comparison,"
The artist rendering currently depicted on the Crazy Horse web
site does not show Allstate Auto. Meanwhile, Rizzolo reportedly said
he intends to break ground in spring 2003, but makes no mention of his
neighbor's future. Barrier suggests that "If he can't afford to buy me
out, Rizzolo should build the new club around my garage." He also calls
his new landlord "The cheapest guy in town."
But some believe it would be wiser for Barrier to move out as quickly
as possible for whatever amount he is offered. They fear for his, and his
family's, safety if he persists in wanting to sell his lease for fair market
"I'm half Greek and half American Indian," said Barrier. "I come from
the toughest people in the world. I'll stay put no matter how much they
try to pester
me to move. My lease is cast in stone and so are my rights. Anyway, there's
too many of those places in this town."
Rizzolo is an associate of numerous Las Vegas and Chicago
mob figures including casino Black Book denizens Fred
Pascente and Joseph
Cusumano. In addition, Rizzolo employs Vinnie
Faraci, son of Bonanno crime family capo "Johnny Green" Faraci, and
Lombardo, brother of former Chicago Outfit boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo.
The Las Vegas Crazy Horse is also becoming nationally
known for violent altercations between patrons and club employees.
In his gruff wrestler's voice, Barrier snarled, "I'm not scared of him,
the mob, or his politician
friends, and I don't back down. If Rick wants to act like a gentleman,
I'm willing to do business with him as a gentleman and move down the street
so he can build his palace with my blessings. But if he wants to act like
a thug, then he's barking up the wrong tree. It'll be a cold day in Hell
before Buffalo Jim gives up his rights. I'll sell my lease, but I won't
sell my soul!"
Mayor Oscar Goodman who once defended
Joseph Cusumano, has been accused of entering the mayoral office with baggage
from his days as a mob attorney. Since being elected in 1999, Goodman has
been accused of doing political favors
for his former clients.
For example, Goodman recently sponsored a custom made ordinance
to allow Cusumano's cousin to expand the Crazy Horse to within 1,000 feet
of another adult business, something that benefited only one person - Rick
Rizzolo. Goodman granted a liquor
license to a Crazy Horse shift manager after the Nevada Gaming Control
Board Chief of Investigations stated, "It's no secret that we have concerns
with some of the associations that he has." Goodman also relaxed the city's
dance and minimum
age laws for exotic dancers, a move that gives Rizzolo's club an advantage
over others including Sapphire and Jaguars that are outside the city limits
and prohibited from employing teenage dancers.
These favors caused speculation that Goodman might try to condemn Barrier's
garage as an additional favor to Rizzolo, et.al. However, in his original
campaign for mayor, Goodman ran on a platform that criticized the city
for taking private property and turning it over to the downtown casinos.
When asked by a reporter if he would consider using the city's power of
eminent domain to remove Barrier to make way for Rizzolo's project, Goodman
in 2002, told a TV audience he would never do so.
After his guarenteed reelection this spring, Goodman is expected to
go back to practicing law part time to mentor his two sons who just graduated
law school. One of his first
clients is expected to be Rick Rizzolo who is facing possible criminal
indictments that may put his expansion plan on hold. He, his associates,
and his business are currently the subject of criminal investigations
by Las Vegas police, the FBI, and a federal grand jury. Rizzolo also faces
lawsuits, one for wrongful
death, the other for attempted
murder. By the look of things, Buffalo Jim's "barrier" may turn out
to be the least of his problems.
Copyright © Steve Miller
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com