The Palomino Club Blog

Reno strip clubs voted out by City Council

September 15, 2017  |   2:22 pm

In July of 2016, the Reno City Council proposed an update to the adult business ordinance. One of these changes involved banning alcohol in strip clubs that had long been established in certain city locations. To be newly-classified as ‘redevelopment districts’, the aim was to force the clubs out of Midtown and Downtown Reno. If the clubs wanted to stay in those locations, alcohol could no longer be served, and digital signs would also be heavily restricted. For over a year of spirited debate, and outright deception on behalf of the City Council (including stating statistics of the negative effects of Reno strip clubs without actually having studies with documentation to prove it), nothing changed.

This week, things changed after a perfunctory Reno City Council meeting. After a vote that went 5-2 against Reno strip clubs, six of the city’s adult businesses are now considered ‘improperly zoned’

What can Reno strip clubs do against dictated morality?

Reno strip clubs have many options. The owner of the Wild Orchid insists they will continue to operate as a 21 and over strip club and begin legal action. Others will have to consider joining the fight, lowering the admissions ages, reopening elsewhere, or closing down for good.

Reno isn’t the first city in the U.S. has gone out of its way to attack adults businesses, and it certainly won’t be the last. Strip clubs in cities like New York have seen a concentrated assault by local lobbyists, liquor licensing authorities, and subsequent buyouts of abandoned club property by religious organizations.

It’s nothing short of a deliberate scheme to drive clubs out of business, one that Rafael Salamanca, a district manager of Bronx Community Board 2 all but admits to.

“You go after their liquor license,” says Salamanca, quoted in The New York Times. “They can’t make any money if they don’t have a liquor license.”

He’s not wrong when it comes to his tactics. Salamanca has been responsible for getting four clubs shut down in under two years, and he is aiming for more.

Some strip clubs choose to fight in court. Others try to re-adjust to their new laws and the continued pressures from the likes of Salamanca, or Reno’s own City Council. They serve mocktails and juice in lieu of real alcohol. And because of the lack of alcohol, many strip clubs consider lowering admissions ages from 21 to 18. Other clubs consider going fully nude if they can, much like the Palomino is, in hopes of maintaining customers despite the lack of spirits from a full bar.

The latter of these is a concern to performers, particularly at clubs where full-nudity has never been a thing. While some performers take to this very easily, others are less willing to go skin-only. A club stands to lose these ladies from their stage, and in the short term that could be a very rough time for the establishment.

For many strip clubs, this sort of pressure is enough to get them to close their doors for good.

Could the plight of Reno strip clubs happen in Las Vegas?

It’s hard to think of strip clubs in the City of Sin getting smacked by a pseudo-activist, opportunistic city council trying everything it can to shut down establishments like the Palomino. Unfortunately, its a bit too premature to say “it could never happen here.” Palomino’s own status as an all-nude strip club that serves alcohol is not one we share with too many other clubs here in Vegas. The laws have changed over time. A new club can’t claim certain ‘rights’ because they aren’t able to be ‘grandfathered’ into them like long-established clubs can. And even decades of legal business apparently isn’t an invincible shield against a determined city council like Reno’s.

What makes the Reno situation particularly frustrating is that the City Council shows absolutely no regard for either the facts, or the workers and owners of these establishments. The catch-all of “redevelopment” is being wielded akin to a baseball bat in the hands of a righteously indignant mafioso, and the victims are legitimate businesses that have run legally for years.