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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:

"Parking lot fetish"
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
October 4, 2004

For several years, topless bar owner Rick Rizzolo has been trying to make his neighbor move out so he can expand his bar. His methods have now centered on his parking lot.

        Sticker placed on legally-parked neighboring business customer's cars

Since 2002 when he bought the industrial center that houses his bar and a neighboring auto garage, Rizzolo has resorted to illegally towing vehicles owned by Allstate Auto customers, along with other less obvious methods of trying to encourage his neighbor to go away. The "harassment" has occurred so often that garage owner Buffalo Jim Barrier took Rizzolo to court on several occasions to recover towing and repair costs, and has a multi-million dollar harassment lawsuit pending jury trial in 2005. The trial has been postponed several times due to an ongoing federal racketeering investigation of Rick Rizzolo, his family, and associates.

Its a car repair business, of course there will be cars parked there over night. They are not in and out in one day always. It would be nice if they were... I'm going to find for the plaintiff... Why don't you guys negotiate a parking agreement instead of trying to enforce one that is not enforceable, something that you both can agree to, and adhere to a certain portion of the parking lot that could be Mr. Barrier's. -- Judge Ann Zimmerman, May 17, 2004

Judge Zimmerman's ruling had no effect on Rizzolo, and the illegal towing continued. "He just pays the judgments and keeps on towing," said Barrier. "He's trying to scare away my customers and employees."

In response, Barrier's attorney Gus Flangas filed a motion for a Temporary Restraining Order. On August 25, Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez made an interpretation of Barrier's lease and advised Rizzolo that he must allow Barrier to have seven permanent parking spaces.

COURT ADVISED it will make an interpretation of the parking regulations, as follows: This is a long-term storage issue. Mr. Barrier may park a maximum of seven vehicles, which must be currently registered and licensed. A list of those vehicles is to be provided to Mr. Rizzolo in order that the independent security company can be notified. -- Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez

But that didn't stop Rizzolo either! Within hours of Judge Gonzalez' ruling, "VIOLATION" stickers were applied to the windshields of Allstate customer's cars that were legally parked adjacent to his business.

"What will it take to teach him that I'm entitled to park my customer's cars next to my business 24/7?" stated an angry Barrier.

Buffalo Jim Barrier (KVBC TV News)

Barrier's lease clearly states: Tenant, for the use and benefit of tenant, his agents, employees, and customers, shall have the nonexclusive right in common with landlord and other and future tenants... to use all designated parking areas during the entire term of this lease.

When Rizzolo bought the center, he agreed in writing to honor Barrier's lease including the parking provisions.

"What part of  'nonexclusive right in common with landlord to use all designated parking areas' doesn't he understand?" quizzed Barrier as an employee of Rizzolo stuck yellow stickers on all his customer's cars no matter where they were parked. "The guy just has no respect for the law," Barrier scowled.
        'VIOLATION" sticker on SUV in entrance to garage                   "VIOLATION" sticker on car parked in front of garage office

Though the yellow "VIOLATION" stickers are placed on Allstate customer's windshields during regular business hours, Rizzolo waits until late at night, after the garage has closed, to tow them away. Also, on several occasions, Allstate customer's tires have reportedly been punctured with an ice pick during nighttime hours. This has caused Barrier to employ a security guard to watch his seven court-ordered parking spaces at night and on weekends. The guard is instructed to not interfere, but to take photos and write down names and other details of the illegal tows for later use in court.

"I've been in this same location since 1976, and this only started after Rizzolo bought the center in 2002," stated Barrier. "I've never seen anything so chicken shit in my entire life! If he wants me to move, why doesn't he act like a man and buy out the remaining five years of my lease instead of acting like a punk?"

(L to R) Ralph Rizzolo and attorney Jon Norheim listen
as Rick Rizzolo points to Barrier's parking spaces
(Photo by Buffalo Jim Barrier)

You'd think Rick Rizzolo would have more important things on his mind right about now. He's expected to be indicted within the next several months. In the meantime, Barrier describes him as having a "parking lot fetish," saying that he only concentrates on annoying his neighbor instead of trying to clean up his own act, or preparing to defend himself against federal criminal charges. Rizzolo's bar, the Crazy Horse Too, has been the repeated scene of reported beatings and robberies involving bar employees, two as recent as August, 2004. Most happened after hapless patrons refused to pay inflated bar tabs.

"They spend more time watching my parking lot than they spend minding their own business. They're obsessed with me," says Barrier, a former pro wrestler.

Crazy Horse patron's cars block emergency access to bar

It goes without question that the Crazy Horse needs more parking. In 1999, Rizzolo's friends on the City Council let him expand his bar by 6,000 square feet without providing more parking or obtaining building permits. This caused bar patrons to park in an adjoining residential neighborhood which inspired a law suit against the City of Las Vegas. So its now very obvious that any Allstate Auto customer's car parked overnight is taking up a space desperately needed by Rizzolo. But that's not Barrier's problem. The City should never have allowed the expansion without additional parking in the first place, and if Rizzolo so desperately needs Barrier's seven spaces, he should buy out his lease instead of trying to tow him out of business.

On Thursday, September 30, Ralph Rizzolo, Rick's brother, was observed sitting for several hours in a black Corvette parked near Barrier's business. That evening, a car owned by a customer of Allstate Auto was illegally towed. Unbeknownst to Barrier, the customer's car had expired Nevada plates, something Judge Gonzalez said would not be allowed. Rizzolo had evidently become aware of the expired plates and parked his Corvette in front of the car to block its view from the garage until after closing hours when it could be towed away unchallenged.

Even though that vehicle's plates had expired, a previous court order stated that Rizzolo was required to place a "VIOLATION" sticker on any car he intended to tow 24 hours before towing occurred. That did not happen in this case.

In 2002, after leasing for twenty-one years with adjacent parking, Barrier discovered official LVFD "Fire Lane/No Parking" signs posted on the side of his garage. When several regular customers accidentally parked in the newly posted space, three tow trucks suddenly appeared on the scene while Rizzolo and several men watched and took photographs from behind a dumpster.
Later that day, Barrier photographed the same space being used by Rizzolo as a valet parking lot with no sign of the tow trucks. He called the Fire Department to complain.

The following morning, City of Las Vegas Fire Inspectors Stickler and Paul visited Barrier's business and removed the signs. They told witnesses that the fire lane belonged on the other side of the alley. However, that same afternoon, Inspectors Stickler and Paul returned, and to Barrier's dismay, re-mounted the signs. When questioned, one Inspector reportedly said, "Mr. Rizzolo is politically influential." The next day, a six-inch wide red stripe was painted around Barrier's business along with orange cones and saw horses displaying additional No Parking warnings.
It was later determined that the area was not qualified to be a fire lane because of electrical transformers blocking passage of emergency vehicles.

     Electrical transformers block "Fire Lane"

The August 30, 2004, INSIDE VEGAS article on the subject was hand delivered to Las Vegas Fire Chief David Washington. The following day, the LVFD signs were removed by City Fire Department officials.
          Official signs removed              Replaced with homemade signs

But that didn't discourage Rizzolo! He brazenly had his own signs painted that resembled the official signs, and placed them back on Barrier's wall. Needless to say, the homemade "Fire Lane" signs carried no weight with the Fire Department, but Rizzolo didn't seem to care. His towing practices continued while Crazy Horse valets parked bar customer's cars in his homemade "Fire Lane" at night.

On February 2, 2005, Judge Gonzalez will conduct a Declaratory Relief hearing to clarify both party's rights in the lease. In the meantime, attorney Flangas is preparing a Show Cause motion to bring Rick Rizzolo before the court to explain why he should not be held in Contempt.

Because Rick Rizzolo is one of the most generous political campaign contributors in the state of Nevada, it will be interesting to see if his repeated disobedience of court orders causes him to pay a criminal penalty. Meanwhile, business has never been better at the Crazy Horse and at Allstate Auto.

The author is a former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner

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