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September 23, 2014

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News rack owner steels for legal battle over possible Strip ban

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Christopher DeVargas

Eddie Munoz owns and operates numerous news racks along Las Vegas Boulevard. The news racks are the subject of a proposed countywide ban. Munoz is seen Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.

Las Vegas Boulevard News Racks

Eddie Munoz owns and operates numerous news racks along Las Vegas Boulevard. The news racks are the subject of a proposed countywide ban. Munoz is seen Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Launch slideshow »

News racks carrying everything from dining and shopping guides to strip club advertisements are the latest target in Clark County’s ongoing attempt to clean up the Strip.

County staffers and elected officials argue the news racks dangerously clutter the sidewalks, obstructing millions of pedestrians who walk along the Strip each year.

But operators of those news racks feel the county is unfairly targeting them, in part because of some of the adult-themed publications stocked in them.

Eddie Munoz has operated news racks on the Strip since 1990 through his company Strip Advertising. He said he’d likely be put out of business should the county commission adopt the news rack ban at its Nov. 5 meeting, but he doesn’t plan to go down without a fight.

The Sun met with Munoz near a cluster of his news racks at Las Vegas Boulevard and Convention Center Drive to discuss the proposed ban’s impact and his brewing legal challenge:

How did you get into the news rack business?

I used to be a contractor. My father and I had a company called Munoz Enterprises. We’ve done all kinds of construction around town. I also had a limousine company. Some way or another I got involved with publishing, and I mainly just do advertising now. I publish the Adult Informer, the Las Vegas Informer and a Strip advertising book. There’s also probably seven or eight other publications we distribute. If I wasn’t around, these other publications wouldn’t have a place to go.

How many news racks do you have?

My associates and I have 450 news racks, 150 on the Strip. We used to have a lot more, but then the county did the rate increase to try to force us out of business. When the regulation started in 1990, it was $10 per news rack per year, then it went up to $25 and now it’s at $65. There’s a lot of people that pick up the book, but the Strip’s not like it used to be. We’ve lost a lot of tourists to other states.

Do you think the news racks are an obstruction to pedestrians?

All of our news racks are at the back of the sidewalk and are 16 inches (deep). It’s not a safety issue. They’re bolted down. They’re not an obstruction. Look at the sign in the sidewalk right there. There are fire hydrants everywhere. A blind man can see what needs to be moved out here.

Do you see any room for compromise?

If the county wants the (news racks) all uniform, all we have to do is move them closer together. We’d donate new racks and make them all the same size, at no cost to the county. You could repaint them to the same color.

Are you preparing a legal challenge if the news rack ban does pass?

We’ve retained Brad Shafer out of Lansing, Mich. He’s one of the top First Amendment attorneys in the United States. They’re saying it’s a safety issue. It’s not. The (commissioners) have called these smut racks. I think they don’t want the news racks there. The hotels definitely don’t want them.

How would the proposed ban on news racks affect your business?

This is my only source of income. We’ll lose 150 news racks on the Strip. The other 300 locations don’t do a quarter of the business the ones on the Strip do. My kids, this is supposed to be their business. I’ve set this up so that it’s there to be their livelihood.

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