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October 22, 2014

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A snit, a post and a bizarre lawsuit at Beauty Bar

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Sam Morris

Darin Feinstein is seen outside Beauty Bar on Friday, July 18, 2014, in downtown Las Vegas. Feinstein recently purchased the venue.

Updated Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 | 10:29 a.m.

Inside of a week of owning Beauty Bar, Darin Feinstein found himself in a verbal tiff with one of his patrons.

Inside of a month, he has filed a lawsuit against that patron in a case seeded on Facebook that has wound up in Clark County District Court.

Suffice to say, it’s been quite a four-week run for the new proprietor of Beauty Bar.

In a move that sent a ripple through downtown Las Vegas, Feinstein took over co-ownership of the ragtag tavern in the Fremont East entertainment district on July 1. Feinstein’s partner in the bar is Corey Harrison, famous as a member of the quartet of principals on the Las Vegas-set A&E series “Pawn Stars.”

The woman listed as the defendant in a case in which Feinstein is alleging personal defamation and business disparagement is Megan Trivette, who works as a hair designer at Josephine Skaught Hairdressing, just behind the Arts Factory in the downtown Arts District.

Feinstein’s filing alleges one claim of defamation and one claim of disparagement each, with claims of damages running into the tens of thousands of dollars, not including attorneys’ fees. Those who know Trivette say she is a strong-minded person. They also say she is not a rich person.

Trivette is represented by Las Vegas attorneys Amanda Gregory and Jennifer Waldo, founders of the law firm Gregory & Waldo, and Andrea Luem.

Luem typically specializes in criminal cases but took on Trivette’s case after meeting her at Trivette’s salon. This morning, Luem said Trivette and her team would have no comment about the case and that none of the attorneys nor Trivette had yet been formally served with the complaint. That could happen as early as this week.

Trivette’s legal team is working on the case pro bono “out of principle," and Trivette is eager to get her version on the record, as it is far different from that of Feinstein, Luem said.

The suit grew from what started as a regular weekend night on Fremont East, where Beauty Bar shares the same sidewalk as the Griffin, Don’t Tell Mama piano bar and Inspire Theater. One of Feinstein’s first acts as the new owner of the well-known downtown tavern and live-music venue was to visit the nightspot on July 5.

Feinstein is a hands-on proprietor with ample experience operating all sorts of nightlife venues and eateries. Along with his newest venture downtown, he is also part-owner of Viper Room in Hollywood (in partnership with Pink Taco restaurant president Harry Morton), the Fat Bar burger and beer joint on the Strip, and has just opened El Dorado Cantina & Bar on Industrial Road, next to Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club.

Feinstein’s father, Peter, owns Sapphire. His brother, Brett, runs the comedy club that is connected to the dance floor.

As the clock edged toward midnight on July 5, Feinstein rolled up to Beauty Bar in style, a passenger in a Sapphire-branded limousine.

That’s when the night got interesting.

Feinstein’s party consisted of six women and seven men Feinstein described as friends and business associates who were unfamiliar with Fremont East. The crew ducked out of the limo and the new bar owner took up a position near the entrance to check out the comings and goings of his new patrons.

The alt-rock band Ringo Deathstarr was shaking the club’s windows that night, as Feinstein walked over to a group of four women, including Trivette and, according to the complaint, her friend Krystal Sanchez.

The next 40-something seconds are at the crux of Feinstein’s suit, and also a Facebook post by Trivette on the night of July 6, which is really where this episode picked up steam.

In that post, Trivette says she and one of her friends were standing outside the bar when they were approached by a group of “obnoxious party bros” (and on Fremont East, there are few lower insults) who had climbed out of the limo.

Her account is that she and her friends, who “did not want to talk or flirt,” were being badgered by members of this group. “It got to the point where they were being disrespectful and intrusive,” reads the post.

Trivette goes on to write that one of the men said to her, “You know this bar, well, I’m the OWNER now. And you’re never invited back in.”

Though Feinstein is not mentioned at all in this account, he does understand that statement was leveled at him (Harrison certainly wasn’t anywhere near this conversation).

Trivette says she was not allowed back into the club, but that one friend was allowed to enter, provided she give the owner “a kiss on the cheek” and another companion was denied entry and had a $20 “thrown back at her.”

Also, she writes, “I have been going to Beauty Bar for over 10 years and I am extremely disappointed in the actions that took place last night by the people who have taken reign over the bar I don’t think I will be attending any time soon.”

To this point, that is all we’ve heard from Trivette, who has declined comment through her counsel.

Her original post has been shared 347 times as of Sunday night. The comments field is full of Trivette’s FB friends offering support and most also taking shots at Beauty Bar and Feinstein.

In his complaint, Feinstein seized on many of the details in the post, adding that the basis of his account is supported by a surveillance video taken a camera trained on the club entrance (Trivette and her attorneys have not watched that video).

He says the limo was not full of “party bros,” but a half-dozen women and seven men. He says he approached Trivette, Sanchez and the other members of the group by himself, not with others at his side.

He says he was not attempting to flirt with anyone in that group, and became agitated only when Trivette made an insulting comment.

Feinstein says the reason the group was denied entrance to the club was because, according to the lawsuit, “of Trivette’s repugnant comment and obvious intoxication.”

The video does show Feinstein walking to the women on his own and then walking back to the entrance apparently upset.

Feinstein is never shown throwing a $20 bill at anyone but does attempt to give one member of the group a refund and has the bill placed on his shoulder. This game of giveaway ends as Feinstein pockets the money.

At one point, Brett Feinstein engages the group in a lengthy, animated conversation, and in the footage appears to be lobbying his brother to allow the women to enter the club, despite the earlier argument. (Brett Feinstein is not identified in the complaint, but he is recognizable in the clip.) Nobody is shown kissing Feinstein to get into the club, either.

In the immediate aftermath of Trivette’s post, the anonymous manager of an anti-Beauty Bar gmail account began circulating an e-mail calling for a widespread boycott of the business (media outlets were on that e-mail list). Trivette’s Facebook post was linked in that e-mail.

Feinstein and his attorneys, Dominic Gentile and Colleen McCarty (the former Channel 8 investigative reporter) have attempted to secure a retraction or amendment out of Trivette. Attorneys for both sides, with Trivette in attendance, met last week at Gentile’s office to discuss what Gentile has described as “additional information” to that original post. Still, despite a sense from the Feinstein camp that this matter would not reach litigation, nothing has been changed on Trivette’s page and the original post remains public.

So here we are, witnessing one of the more unusual lawsuits to hit downtown Las Vegas in a long time.

A longtime Las Vegas attorney of ample prominence, Gentile specializes in First Amendment cases and says this matter could set a precedent as a defamation case, because it is rooted in a social-media platform (Facebook) instead of a mass-media outlet. If this matter moves to trial, it could, conceivably, draw attention to similarly negative posts on such consumer-generated websites as Yelp and Trip Advisor.

But Feinstein says he is simply attempting to resolve this issue at this moment.

“I feel like I walked into a hornets’ nest, and this person didn’t like me from the moment she saw me get out of the limo,” he said. “Look, if she would write a retraction, this would be over. But I have other businesses that might be affected, not just Beauty Bar. I didn’t want to do this, but I had to do something to protect myself.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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