Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007 | 7:07 a.m.
Downtown strip joints and taverns - even a casino - have received tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pay for improvements to their business's exteriors.
Now it looks like a member of the Las Vegas City Council is going to indirectly benefit from some of that free money. In an eastside strip mall, Gary Reese's salon - Gary and Derrill's Plaza Barbershop, 2341 E. Bonanza Road - will be sporting a nice new look if the mall's owner gets the $50,000 he has requested from the city.
At Wednesday's City Council meeting, Strata Vegas LLC, which owns the mall, is expected to ask the Redevelopment Agency for $50,000 to make visual improvements. Along with Reese's barbershop, the mall is home to Mi Pueblito salon, El Triumfo Restaurant, Bazar Latino jewelers and a Hollywood Video.
Judging from the before-remodeling photos and after-remodeling renderings in a package of information given to council members, the money will help make a marked improvement to the property. What can be described as something akin to a long, single-story chicken shed with brick facades and a gray roof-tile overhang will be turned into a mall with varied heights and smooth siding, painted the colors of a Starbucks coffee shop - deep red, earthy brown, goldenrod and green.
Asked about the money on Monday afternoon, Reese said he would abstain from the vote Wednesday. He also said he had nothing to do with any of the planning or movement of Strata Vegas' application through the Redevelopment Agency.
"I haven't talked to the landlord about it," he said. "I referred it to the mayor and (City Attorney) Brad Jerbic."
Two years ago, the city began handing out grants of up to $50,000 to business owners in its downtown Redevelopment District. Business owners have to show that without the money, they would be unlikely to make the improvements themselves.
The program is controversial - judging by the number of calls and e-mails the Sun has received from readers - because of a statement that business owners have to swear to in their application. The statement says: "Assistance from the (Redevelopment) Agency will allow us to make improvements to the site, which we could not otherwise do."
So Strata Vegas swore it could not make the improvements without the $50,000. In the same application, Strata Vegas indicates it is spending $1.1 million on overall improvements to the site. A Strata Vegas representative, listed on the application as being from Newport Beach, Calif., could not be reached for comment.
Through the first week of October, the city had committed nearly $1.2 million total to 29 businesses. One of the most controversial gifts went to the Olympic Garden strip club at 1531 Las Vegas Blvd. South. The club initially designed a sign with a gigantic "O.G." over a digital screen showing an image of a woman from the shoulders up.
Reese went ballistic over the signage, arguing that moms and pops and kiddies from far-flung places such as Iowa, when driving on Las Vegas Boulevard, might be offended if something too risque appeared on-screen.
The Olympic Garden backed off. The new sign is a massive "O.G." with no video screen beneath.
The Olympic Garden wasn't the first strip club to benefit from the city's largesse. Glitter Gulch, which already benefits from operating beneath the four-block-long electrified computer screen over the Fremont Street Experience, received $50,000 to improve its sign in 2006.
Another Fremont Street Experience business to get city money was the Four Queens casino, which, like the others, had to demonstrate that without the money it was not likely to complete the visual improvement. It applied for $50,000 this year.