Las Vegas Sun

October 26, 2021

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Nevada sex workers return to brothels, making up for lost time

Legal Brothels Reopen in Nevada

Steve Marcus

The Chicken Ranch, a licensed, legal brothel near Pahrump, is pictured Thursday, May 6, 2021. Nevada’s legal brothels were given the green light to reopen May 1 after being closed for more than a year due to the pandemic.

Legal Brothels Reopen in Nevada

Legal prostitutes Kourney Chase, left, and Ariel Ganja pose at the Chicken Ranch brothel in Pahrump, Nev. Thursday, May 6, 2021. Nevada's legal brothels reopened Saturday, May 1 after being closed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Launch slideshow »

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down Nevada’s legal brothels last year, Kourtney Chase found herself scrambling to find ways to make ends meet.

Chase, a sex worker at the Chicken Ranch about 65 miles outside of Las Vegas, did online sex shows and even tried a conventional job — what women in the business call a “square job” — working as a delivery driver for Postmates.

Chase, who is used to making about $100,000 a year working a couple of weeks a month at the brothel, managed to scrape by on $20,000 over the last year, she said.

“You just do the best you can, as many little odd jobs as you can,” said Chase, who has a 3-year-old daughter.

That’s why she was ecstatic when Gov. Steve Sisolak cleared the way for Nevada’s 21 legal brothels to reopen May 1 after a 13-month shutdown.

“This is my whole life,” Chase said as she lounged around the Chicken Ranch in a black minidress with a bare midriff and skyscraper heels. “When I retire from this, it’s always going to be a part of my life.”

The Chicken Ranch, which sits in a remote area south of Pahrump, plays host to some 60 women who rotate through to provide their services. At any given time, about a dozen women are working at the pastel blue-and-pink building with dormers and gingerbread trim.

While prostitution is illegal in Nevada’s big population centers of Las Vegas and Reno, it is permitted in licensed brothels in the state’s rural counties. All told, about 20 brothels are licensed to operate in Nevada.

Chase, 27, who also performs in adult films, has been working at the Chicken Ranch for the last two years. In her first week back, she made $5,000, and that’s after the house took its 50% cut.

“They want to make their money back,” said Trudy Kevoian, who as madam has managed the Chicken Ranch for four years. “They want to get out of the red.”

Kevoian said she had pages of client appointments for the reopening. Men were waiting in the parking lot for the doors to open.

Ariel Ganja, a 35-year-old sex worker, said one client asked if he could sleep outside in his trailer until the brothel opened.

The Chicken Ranch is adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health and safety guidelines. Clients are allowed to remove their masks after they show proof they are fully vaccinated.

Lexy, a courtesan at the Chicken Ranch for 18 years, said she had a client who asked they keep their masks on while having sex, but she doesn’t require it.

Lexy has an air purifier in her Playboy-themed room and uses a handheld disinfectant sprayer on her bed and shower. “I went the extra mile,” she said.

Aside from the coronavirus protocols, it’s business as usual. Mandatory high heels lined a narrow hallway leading to the women’s rooms. When a customer comes at any hour, the women slip them on for a lineup in the parlor room.

The ladies come out one at a time and introduce themselves while standing in front of a mirror so the client can get a front and back view. Prices aren’t discussed until the client goes to a woman’s private room.

The 17-room brothel includes a common area where men can be entertained in an indoor jacuzzi while women spin on a stripper pole under strobe lights.

There’s also a backyard swimming pool and the Leghorn Bar and Chicken Ranch Strip Club. Unlike a typical gentlemen’s club, customers can take a stripper back to her room.

Chase, who said she was coerced into illegal prostitution when she was just 13, has been working legally in brothels in Nye County since 2015.

The brothels have “changed my whole life around,” Chase said. “I really promote brothels. It’s a good place to stabilize your life when you come from situations like mine.”

Chase, Ganja and Lexy said they were relieved to ditch the odd jobs they picked up during the pandemic and return to the Chicken Ranch, which offers more money, safety and stability.

They were especially happy to see the other ladies again. “It’s hard to have friends not in this business. They don’t understand,” Ganja said.