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October 24, 2014

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Ordinance would close car dealers on Sundays

Clark County residents can spend their Sundays tugging at slot machines, bellying up to bars or even ducking into a cabaret for a quick show.

But if a county ordinance is approved late this summer, what they will not be able to do on Sunday is drop by a car dealership and buy a vehicle.

Clark County Commissioner Erin Kenny has directed the district attorney's office to draft an ordinance to prohibit new and used car dealerships from being open on Sundays. The new measure will be introduced during Wednesday's board meeting, and a public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1.

Car dealerships for years have had an informal agreement to close on Sunday, partly out of respect to nearby neighborhoods and partly to allow their employees to spend a day with their families.

But used-car businesses that have converged on the county during the last few years are not so willing to go along with the deal.

"There is a gentlemen's agreement that says we're not open on Sundays, and what this does is put it in writing," county spokesman Doug Bradford said. Kenny was unavailable for comment.

The question is whether it's the government's job to seal that agreement.

Cashman Cadillac closes on Sunday for two reasons: Employees can count on the day off, and it allows potential customers to peruse the car lot without the pressure of a hovering salesperson.

Although Cashman honors the agreement, it feels it should have the choice to remain open seven days a week.

"You're talking about free enterprise," said Kent Mason, marketing manager for the dealership. "If our dealership wanted to be open 24 hours a day, we should have the freedom to do that."

Such ordinances, commonly called blue laws, typically require that all businesses close on Sundays. Those who question the proposed ordinance wonder why it targets car dealerships.

"It's puzzling in Clark County that they would think there is some real important government interest to have every other business open on Sunday except for a car dealership," said attorney Allen Lichtenstein, who specializes in constitutional issues. "It doesn't make sense."

Lichtenstein said the ordinance could be challenged in court on several grounds, including equal protection arguments.

Wayne Jones, executive director of the Independent Automobile Dealers Association in Salt Lake City, said Utah skirted constitutional questions by allowing dealerships to choose whether they want to close on Saturday or Sunday.

Utah patterned its law after measures in Michigan and Texas, which have been tested in the courts.

"It was upheld in the courts as constitutional, mostly because of the way it was written; you can be open Saturday or Sunday," Jones said.

While there were still concerns about whether government should dictate when businesses can and cannot be open, Jones said most dealerships were in support of the law. He said not all businesses can afford to stay open seven days a week because of overhead costs.

Jim Marsh, owner of several auto dealerships around the Las Vegas Valley, said city and county zoning requirements for the past five years have required many new dealerships to close on Sundays. His newest dealership at Centennial Parkway and Durango Drive has such a requirement, but his location at Eastern and Sahara avenues could be open on Sunday if he wanted.

"(Nearby residents) don't especially want people pulling in and out and balloons flying over," Marsh said. "The purpose of the new ordinance is to keep a level playing field for all car dealerships. I'm required to be closed on Sundays. It's unfair that somebody else can be open."

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