Las Vegas Sun
December 20, 2005
Columnist Jeff German:
It didn’t take long to see a softening in the solidarity among strip club owners. Scores, the newest joint on the topless club scene, has found a clever way to get around the industry’s self-imposed ban on paying kickbacks to cabbies and limousine drivers.
And I’m told the practice isn’t going over well with the club’s competitors, who are standing firm in refusing to pay up.
All of the major strip clubs, including Scores, agreed to stop handing out cash to the drivers following a rare summit on Dec. 5.
The clubs reported that they were tired of giving the drivers as much as $70 a head for the business.
But recently Scores started getting money to the drivers indirectly.
Customers who come to Scores in a taxicab or limousine, I’m told, don’t have to pay the $30 cover charge to get inside as long as they take care of the drivers.
The arrangement is giving Scores a business advantage over its angry competitors, who are sticking to the kickback ban.
But it’s also raising the specter of one of the taxicab industry’s most persistent problems — the illegal practice of diverting passengers away from their destination of choice.
Last Friday a veteran private investigator hired by a group of clubs obtained first-hand evidence of how Scores is circumventing the Dec. 5 agreement with its competitors.
In the process, the investigator, Hal de Becker III, also may have obtained evidence of diversion.
Armed with high-tech audio and video surveillance equipment, de Becker entered a cab on the Strip about 11:30 p.m. posing as a tourist. He asked to be taken to a topless club, either Cheetahs or Spearmint Rhino.
“At this time the cab driver recommended Scores …,” de Becker wrote in a sworn affidavit. “I asked the driver what the cover charge was for entry into Scores.
“The driver stated that the cover charge was $30. However, if I paid him $15 cash, he would make sure that the doorman at Scores would walk me in at no additional charge.”
De Becker then agreed to pay the driver $15 and be taken to Scores where, he wrote, he was escorted into the club by a doorman.
The entire transaction was secretly recorded by the private detective.
He believes the cabbie tried to divert him away from the other clubs — which is something that might attract the attention of the Nevada Taxicab Authority, which regulates cabbies.
The incident also is likely to stir things up even more on the topless club scene as the clubs look to settle the score with their resourceful rival.
Jeff German’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in the Sun. Reach him at email@example.com or (702) 259-4067.