Reid's comments catch business leaders off guard

As the managing partner of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, Lance Gilman said he was caught off guard on Tuesday when Sen. Harry Reid called for Nevada's legal brothels to be outlawed after a business owner touring the industrial park expressed concerns over the industry.

The Senate Majority Leader made those comments during a speech to Nevada lawmakers on Tuesday.

Despite the concerns that business expressed to Reid, Gilman said that same company still is opening a location in the Storey County industrial park and is currently in escrow for a building (he said he can't release the name of the company because of a non-disclosure agreement).

"I'm dumbfounded," Gilman said. "I absolutely can't imagine where he's coming from in a time when the economy is so difficult and budgets are so difficult to suggest to rescind the approvals to operate these houses."

He said he's never had a company decide against coming to the center because Nevada has legalized brothels, including the two bordellos he owns in Storey County, not far from the industrial center: The Wild Horse Canyon Ranch and Mustang Ranch.

Rob Hooper, the executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority, said the subject of brothels rarely comes up in conversation with businesses considering a move to Nevada.

"It hardly ever does come up and if it does come up it's just a point of interest and it just goes away," Hooper said, adding most companies are concerned about the state's workforce.

Dennis Hof, the owner of Mound House's Moonlight Bunny Ranch, watched Reid's speech in the Assembly chamber with a half dozen of his working girls. While Reid's initial criticism of legal brothels in Nevada garnered some applause from lawmakers, Hof and the women sat stone faced.

Afterward, surrounded by reporters, Hof called Reid's assertion that the legal sex industry in Nevada was hurting economic development, "a lie." He added he's now regretting his vote for Reid in November.

He said there are about 1,500 women who work in legal brothels in Nevada, adding many live in "nice neighborhoods and they vote."

Hof said Reid's proposal could have legs, too, though no bills outlawing legal brothels have been introduced.

"It could happen absolutely, but it won't go down without a fight," Hof said. "Somebody is going to have to compensate us. We have businesses here."

Storey County Manager Pat Whitten said the county's two brothels amount to about $500,000 in licensing fees and property taxes each year. A nice chunk of change for the county's $15 million budget. The four brothels in Lyon County pull in about $400,000 for the county government each year, according to County Manager Jeff Page.

Whitten, a former Storey County Sheriff, said he was surprised by Reid's remarks on Tuesday, adding a potential business expressing concerns over legal prostitution is no different than another complaining about high energy rates or property taxes.

Ultimately, the picture Reid painted in his speech is, "Totally contrary to what I see almost weekly," Whitten said, adding a major company is expected to announce it will open a 300,000 square foot distribution center in the industrial park in a few weeks.

Former state archivist Guy Rocha said he made sure he was in the Assembly on Tuesday to watch Reid's speech - first sitting member of Congress, in his memory, to publicly slam the brothel industry in Nevada. Rocha noted Reid grew up around brothels in his hometown of Searchlight.

And while Nevada may be an anomaly in the United States because of its legal sex industry, "We're much more in step with the rest of the world."

Rocha said he wasn't sure if the proposal would pass this session if a bill were to be introduced, though given the large crop of freshmen lawmakers there could be a few who would support it. Rocha also said there could be other issues such as compensation for currently legal businesses that would suddenly be deemed illegal.

Regardless, "I don't think this was thought through well enough," he said.

* This story has been updated since its original publication.


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