Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: CITY HALL:

City holds out hope for arena downtown

Beyond the Sun

According to Scott Adams, director of the city’s Business Development Office, the possibility still exists for a sports arena complex, including a casino, on a 56-acre downtown site off Charleston Boulevard.

Though Las Vegas’ deal with arena developer REI Neon appears dead, there is a chance a buyer of the property might want to develop the site as REI once did, Adams said.

And that’s why, until it’s knownwho will end up owning the land, it makes no sense for the City Council to strip the site of its designated gaming “overlay,” or entitlement.

Critics have said the REI plan was a scheme in which there was never an intention of building an arena on that site.

The backdoor plan, these critics have suggested, was instead to use the gaming entitlement to raise the value of the land, and then sell it for a higher price to a casino developer.

In a recent interview, Adams denied that claim, and said a motion had not been made before the council to eliminate the gaming entitlement simply because the ultimate fate of that land was undetermined.

If the arena plan for that site dies, Adams said, any possibility for gaming would die with it.

Should those acres be sold, together or piecemeal, to businesses or developers who have nothing to do with an arena project, he said, it would make sense — at that point — to have the council eliminate the gaming entitlement.

•••

An ordinance that mandates that applicants for business licenses in more than a dozen job categories submit to FBI fingerprint checks passed the City Council on Wednesday.

The original 15 categories of businesses in the proposed ordinance included massage parlors, bars, casinos, and businesses that serve children, such as ice cream trucks and martial arts studios.

The list also included psychics. That’s because customers of psychics face a higher-than-average risk of consumer fraud, said Jim DiFiore, the city’s business services manager.

Two more categories of businesses were added at the last minute: reflexologists and wedding chapel owners.

Chapel owners, sure. Recently, the city was forced to change the law regarding how chapel-marketing “handbillers” plied their trade after chronic reports of violence and intimidation between billers from different chapels.

But reflexologists, the folks who massage, squeeze and push on parts of the feet and hands in an effort to improve overall health?

DiFiore said reflexologists were included because of the large number who come here from out of state to work.

•••

There are, most assuredly, strict rules prohibiting City Council members from obtaining free meals in return for granting business licenses to restaurants.

So, most assuredly, glowing remarks from council members during Wednesday’s meeting about restaurants in their wards were made strictly with the best of intentions.

It began with a remark from Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian about a Thai restaurant in Ward 1 that sought to change its name. The restaurant — to be called V Thai Cuisine — had developed quite a following of devoted diners in her ward, she noted.

Moments later, Councilman Ricki Barlow said he loved a sushi restaurant in his Ward 5, which had a motion before the council to change its to Yoko Sushi. “My wife and I hang out there,” he said.

Of course, it’s rare that Mayor Oscar Goodman is left out of such jokefests. While approving a license for a Brazilian steakhouse, the mayor noted that his daughter-in-law happened to be from Brazil.

“She’s going to look forward to being comped in your place,” Goodman said to the newly licensed owners.

“I’m kidding!” he said after a short pause. “Please, I’m kidding!”

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