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November 17, 2018

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What’s next for Dennis Hof’s brothels across Nevada?

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Steve Marcus

Brothel owner and Assembly candidate Dennis Hof poses outside the Moonlite BunnyRanch brothel in Mound House, six miles east of Carson City, in this June 16, 2018, file photo. Hof died Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, at age 72.

Brothel mogul Dennis Hof in 2012 added Suzette Cole — better known as Madam Suzette — to the business and liquor license for his four brothels in Lyon County. Hof, citing health issues for the change, wanted to make sure his Northern Nevadan empire would continue after his death.

“He didn’t specify what the issues were, but he wanted to make sure (Cole) was on there in the event something happened to him and the places wouldn’t close down,” said Jeff Page, Lyon County manager. “She is, as far as the county is concerned, the person running all four brothels, the strip club and the restaurant and bar.”

Hof was found dead Tuesday at the Love Ranch in Crystal after a weekend of partying with adult star Ron Jeremy, ex-Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and others for his 72nd birthday. Now, that business plan crafted six years ago is in play.

Hof’s executive assistant, Zack Hames, said Cole has been running the business up north full-time “for years” and anticipates no major changes moving forward. She was unavailable for comment.

“It’s business as usual,” Hames said.

“Kiki Lover,” one of Hof’s legal prostitutes, approved of the Cole’s taking over.

“Madam Suzette would be a great brothels owner,” she posted on Twitter. “She’s very business oriented and is a very smart lady. It is a pleasure to work at her brothels.”

Running the business is easier said than done. An advisory question on November’s ballot asks Lyon County voters to support repealing the county’s brothel ordinance. Lyon County, about an hour drive from Reno, is one of seven Nevada counties where prostitution houses are legal and active.

If the vote comes back as yes, the county commissioner will develop a plan to gradually phase out the brothels, giving those who are employed time to obtain other work, Page said. He said there would be no timetable.

The Love Ranch, located in Nye County, was Hof’s only remaining operating brothel in Southern Nevada, as in June he sold the Alien Cathouse brothel in Amargosa Valley. (He still owns the land but leases it to a new operator.) He also still owned the shuttered Cherry Patch Ranch property, located a block away from the Love Ranch, but business had not been conducted there in years.

Hof was in the process of selling his Southern Nevada properties in case he won an Assembly seat in next month’s election, claiming in June he wanted to focus on the politics of the area, and not running a business. He is still expected to win despite his death.

Nye County code dictates brothel licenses are not transferable and that no operator can be added without a new license application and approval by the Nye County licensing and liquor board, officials said.

“The new owner, whether sold or heir, would have to apply for the brothel license, go through a background check conducted by the sheriff’s office,” said Arnold Knightly, Nye County spokesperson. “They (applicants) would then come before the licensing and liquor board for approval or denial.”

Only the inheritor of Hof’s properties would have authority to apply for a new license, according to code. The board is composed of the five commissioners and the sheriff.

Hames said Cole, a longtime Hof employee and confidant, would also take over in the southern brothel and plans to apply for licensing in Nye County. “Suzette will continue the legacy,” Hames said.

Yet, it is unclear if Hof left that property to Cole. Hof’s lawyer, Marc Risman, said he had not seen Hof’s estate plan and was waiting to hear from trustees. A meeting to determine the future of Hof’s estate was underway Wednesday, Hames said.

Whoever the inheritor is in the south, they would have four options: Keep the property and apply for the license; sell the property and the buyer could apply for a license; the inheritor could lease the property to an interested party, who could apply for a license, or they can simply do nothing and the brothel shutters.

Love Ranch closed Tuesday as the Nye County Sheriff’s Office investigated Hof’s death and the coroner removed his body. The brothel remained closed for business Wednesday, Hames said. It’s expected to remain closed.

Madam Trudy — the general manager at the nearby Chicken Ranch, which Hof was interested in buying — said she had no comment on what Hof’s death means to the industry.

“We offer our condolences to anyone who passes,” Trudy said. “We had no issues with Hof and we’re sorry that he passed.”

Representatives of Sheri’s Ranch brothel in Pahrump declined comment.