This Is Reno Radio

City of Reno cracks down on trivia games at local bars

May 06, 2022 This Is Reno Season 2022 Episode 8
This Is Reno Radio
City of Reno cracks down on trivia games at local bars
Show Notes Transcript

Local business DJ Trivia has for nearly a decade been hosting games at local bars. But the City of Reno recently decided those games qualify as live entertainment. 

As a result, a handful of bars have been forced to quit hosting the games – or get an expensive cabaret license.

In this episode we hear from two of the business owners impacted by the city’s recent crackdown on trivia games. 

Also: The recent leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft ruling could overturn the longstanding Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the right to choose to have an abortion. 

The potential change to Roe v. Wade drew swift rebuke in Reno as dozens gathered at the federal courthouse to express their outrage. We chat with the ACLU’s Holly Welborn and Lilith Baran to talk about what the potential overhaul will mean for Nevadans

Speaking of the ACLU, the civil liberties organization recently sued the state of Nevada for continuing to list cannabis as a schedule 1 controlled substance. That listing by Nevada’s board of pharmacy, according to the ACLU, violates the Nevada Constitution in part because the state has legalized cannabis for recreational and medicinal use.

Sadmira Ramic with the ACLU explains the reason for the lawsuit.

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Well, two weeks right before our nine year anniversary, on April 1, I received a quote courtesy call for someone from the city of Reno business and licensing office, letting me know that DJ trivia is now considered live entertainment, and that several of my locations do not have the cabaret license and since they are now defining us as live entertainment, that they needed to cease activities and apply for and wait until they receive the proper licensing before we can continue games. Local Business deejay trivia has for nearly a decade been hosting games at local bars. But the city of Reno recently decided those games qualify as live entertainment. As a result, a handful of bars have been forced to either quit hosting the Games or to get an expensive cabaret license. We've seen our nightly Wednesday, sales have gone down on the average of $600 which isn't good, especially for our employees. Their tips have been cut in half and actually we're gonna have to lay for not scheduled somebody. You only have one person doing a Wednesday now because there's no need for that since we don't have DJ trivia. On Bob Conrad, your host of the this is Reno radio show and podcast. We are broadcasting on kW NK community radio in Reno at 97.7 FM as well as on all major podcast apps. On today's show, we hear from two of the business owners impacted by the city's recent crackdown on trivia games. But first the recent leak of a US Supreme Court draft ruling could overturn the long standing Roe v Wade decision that gave women the right to choose to have an abortion. potential change to Roe v Wade drew swift rebuke in Reno as dozens gathered at the federal courthouse to express their outrage. I caught up with the ACLU is Holly Wellborn and low with Baron to talk about what the potential overhaul will mean for Nevadans. You know, the United States Supreme Court someone leaked an opinion draft for a case that came out of Mississippi that will essentially overall overturn Roe vs. Wade, which has protected abortion rights in the United States for over 50 years. It's the first time in US history that the Supreme Court has actually taken away a right. So you know, a lot of people in need of abortion care are very afraid. And a lot of people are talking about what this means for all of the rest of the privacy protections that protect a whole other host of privacy rights that we enjoy as a result of that Genesis of case law. Nevada, fortunately, in the early 90s, Nevada overwhelmingly voted to affirm our abortion statute. We use a process that we're you know, a firm that statute and so in order to change it, it has to go to the voters the legislature is not able to unilaterally make any changes to abortion. So we do have the protected right to choose in this state. It you know, it's always fragile, like look at what we're seeing all across the country. You know, we have to continue to fight for for that. Right. And but of course, that's not where it ends, we still have trouble with people accessing abortion care in the state of Nevada, there is nowhere in rural Nevada to receive an abortion, whether it's medication, abortion, or procedural abortion care, Lily Baron is also with the ACLU of Nevada. We think back on other Supreme Court decisions, those are things like interracial marriage, you know, some really serious progress that we've made as a country. So this is not just an attack on women. This is a religious group of white supremacist that want to make decisions about other people whom they deem inferior. Speaking of the ACLU, the civil liberties organization recently sued the state of Nevada for continuing to list cannabis as a Schedule One controlled substance. That listing by the Nevada's Board of Pharmacy, according to the ACLU violates the Nevada constitution in part because the state has legalized cannabis for both recreational and medicinal use. I spoke with one of the ACL US attorneys about the lawsuit. Sure My name is submitted homage. So I'm an attorney with the ACE So you have Nevada based here out of Las Vegas. I am the voting rights attorney primarily. But I also work in other areas, depending on different cases and interests we have. And I also work with my colleagues in different cases as well. Tell me about the most recent litigation that you filed regarding cannabis and how it's classified at the state level. So the ACLU has filed for a petition for writ of mandamus against the state of Nevada, particularly the Nevada Board of Pharmacy, because they have failed to remove cannabis from its list of schedule one substances even though cannabis was legalized medically and recreationally in Nevada. If you look back in 2001, that's when medical cannabis was legalized. And at that point in time, the Nevada Constitution was amended recognizing the medical value of cannabis. And it also required that it'd be distributed to individuals with certain illnesses. And if you fast forward over a decade later, in 2017, recreational cannabis was legalized. And this was primarily because Nevada voters no longer wanted government resources to be used to prosecute cannabis related offenses. And they wanted profiling cannabis to be treated in the same manner as alcohol. And we filed this case, because there's a loophole exists because cannabis is still classified as a schedule one substance in Nevada. And it's my understanding that well, let me just ask, does that follow the federal designation of cannabis as a clock being classified as a scheduled one there as well. So under federal laws, so cannabis is scheduled as a Schedule One Substance under federal regulations. However, Nevada has its separate regulatory with the Nevada Board of Pharmacy. So the Nevada Board of Pharmacy is the one that schedules substances here in Nevada. And they are the ones that determine whether or not want to schedule the substance, and then to whether or not that substance is put it within a certain category. So whether it's 1234 or five, and what what do you think is the reason why the board has not updated its regulations? Is it willful? Is it they just haven't thought about it? Have you been fighting this battle for a long time? What what's happening there? You know, I don't know why, um, I can't really speak to as to why they did certain things, you know, I have not spoken with them directly. Regarding this issue, I do think it's a pretty well known fact, here in Nevada, that balls have been passed legalizing marijuana, recreationally and medically. So, you know, I don't have an answer as to why they are doing this. But I don't see how they would not know in regards to the changes in the laws. And I noticed in your writ that some people are still being prosecuted for possession of cannabis in Nevada, despite it being illegal. It sounds like that's part of what you're trying to address. Is that fair to say? Oh, yeah, most certainly. So if you look in the reason, and the way that we phrase that phrase, it is that we have this loophole. So everyone thinks, yes, we have passed. We have legalized marijuana recreationally. They have legalized marijuana medically, you know, we have nothing else to do. But this loophole still exists because we have cannabis is classified as a schedule one substance. And some of Nevada's laws rely on the scheduling when they criminalize certain behaviors as it relates to that. So you have instances where police officers and prosecutors are using those laws to charge people who are possessing cannabis. And I can give you an example, if that would help put it in perspective. I know sometimes it can be kind of convoluted and in terms of how it exactly plays out. So as an example, would help you understand the better I can give you that as well. Yes, please. So for example, right now, under Nevada law, it is illegal to possess a controlled substance and it's a felony to possess for sale, a controlled substance as a schedule one substance. So given that that's illegal, police officers will charge individuals with possession of a controlled set Since for sale if they possess marijuana. So an example that I could give you is, let's say that I purchase marijuana and go to the dispensary. I purchase it. And at that point in time, I go to a share that marijuana with a friend. And in return, they're like, Okay, you spend $10 on this and for sharing that I will give you $5 That individual and police officers are charging this can be charged with possession of a controlled substance for sale because they have marijuana. And I think the big thing that needs to be highlighted with this is that when when marijuana was legalized recreationally in 2017, in the ballot initiative, and Nevada voters specifically put this in there and voted on it, they indicated that they wanted marijuana to be treated the same way as alcohol. So that was the reason behind him. They didn't want resources spent on prosecuting these cannabis related offenses. And it's most certainly not being treated in the same way as alcohol. If I was to go and purchase beer at a store, and then go to my friend's house, and you know, split the six pack with them, and they're like, Hey, you spent$10 on the song, give me $5, I would never be charged with a felony offense for doing that. So I think that's a big difference. That that that's an issue here now. Yeah, how often is that happening, that people are still being prosecuted for cannabis, either possession or sale or whatever? You know, I don't know the exact statistics on it on it. But I can tell you that it is happening in different ways. It's not this example I gave you is not only one of the examples, you know, if another example would be if, if I have, for example, I go and I purchase cannabis from the dispensary. And I want two different kinds of different types of weed. And I have those two in separate bags or separate containers, and I get pulled over. And the police officer determines Hey, because this isn't two separate containers, it's an indication of a sale. And that's when they charged people with possession of a controlled substance for sale. And that's a Class D felony. And so I don't have the exact statistics of how many people are being charged. Particularly because sometimes when they're charged with possession of a controlled substance, they don't specify that it's marijuana, because it's any controlled substance, including meth and heroin. So you have people being charged with Class A felonies for possessing cannabis, the same way that they're being charged with possessing meth and heroin. And it's an issue and do you think with your risk that you will achieve or essentially help eliminate disability for law enforcement to charge people for that? Is that your end goal? Basically? That is the end goal, because what we're asking the court to find is that the classification of cannabis and its derivatives are violates the Nevada constitution, particularly because of that constitution says yes, cannabis does have medical value. And yes, you do have to distribute it to individuals who have certain illnesses. And then we're also asking the court to compel the State Board of Pharmacy to remove cannabis from the list of schedule one substances. So police officers and prosecutors can no longer rely on that statute that states that references the controlled substances. Great. Well, thank you so much. Is there anything else that you would like to add that that we can maybe use for the story? I think it's just very important to highlight that. Nevada has come a long way to decriminalized cannabis, and to kind of roll back the harms caused by the war on drugs. And yet, we still have this loophole being used by prosecutors and by police officers to charge individuals with felonies. And they're essentially acting as if they know about agenda voters who actually elected them in individuals are being arrested, they're being held in jail. They're dealing with the concept consequences of having a felony on their record, because they possess cannabis while the state and business is profiting from its sale. And you know, this is just wrong and it's unconstitutional. And we hope that by filing this lawsuit and by having cannabis and derivatives, and if the root is removed from the list, it will it will solve the issue and it will actually achieve what Nevada voters and people to live in the state wanted to see happen. trivia games according to the city over You know are classified as live entertainment. And as such local bars must have an expensive cabaret license in order to host trivia games. Vicki must he owns DJ trivia which hosts such games. She's been in the business since 2013. But in April, the city cracked down on both her business and the bars where she hosts trivia. Well, two weeks right before our nine year anniversary, on April 1, I received a quote courtesy call for someone from the city of Reno business and licensing office, letting me know that DJ trivia is now considered a live entertainment. And that several of my locations do not have the cabaret license. And since they are now defining us as live entertainment, that they needed to cease activities and apply for and wait until they receive the proper licensing before we can continue games. So we're about three quarters of the way through our league season for this year. And it affected seven of my existing clients as well as the client that was slated to start on the first Tuesday of the month. Well, from what I can tell, they decided to reclassify us, and I can only assume it's because of budget shortfalls due to COVID. And, and it is an interesting coincidence, if you will, but I happen to get the call on April 1. reading between the lines, it feels like somebody was sitting in a queue one budget meeting, and was trying to figure out what they could do to generate more revenue. Their official statement, though, said that they had been receiving complaints. I don't know exactly what that means. And I have submitted a public records request to try to find out what those complaints are or worse, and how that affects us. In fact, it was one business that drew complaints. But it sounds like because we are an organized business, that it was just an easy thing to go through my website and find all of our list of games where we were running trivia leagues and say, Nope, this one needs the license. This one needs a license. And the domino effect has been really painful and unfortunate. I asked Vicki, how many bars were impacted. Three of them had to stop. Others were able to, you know, scratch together the money and go in and pay the fees. But some of especially the smaller ones, they can't justify in the neighborhood of $5,000, when they're still barely recovered, you know, from the two years of COVID impact. And frankly, those kind of ease seem really high for tiny little bars that are just trying to run a 90 minute game once a week. I think it's completely different than, you know, concerts or bands or things like that. There are a few that I think are operating within a gray area. And I know everybody's trying to do what they think is right. And I don't want to get anyone in trouble. What changed? One of the things they told me on the phone, when I asked the why question that what changed, they said it was because my host who's organizing the games uses a microphone. And that is why they weren't determining it and labeling it as live entertainment instead of a game. So I actually have a couple of places that have changed formats and are doing a DJ bingo game, because we can do that one without a microphone. But again, not they're not they're afraid to promoted on social media. They don't know of bingos and all of a sudden be you know, oh, no, you can't do that either. And, but we're just, you know, scrambling to try to find something to fill the need for midweek programming to help encourage people to come out and spend money at these smaller businesses on slower weeknights. But but also that doesn't really help the people that have been so loyal to their teams and their leagues that are wanting to you know, qualify for for the playoffs. The end of may do have some games in Spark, thankfully that we're not affected. We're expanding out into Fernley, but really my heart aches for the clients that we've been working with that all of a sudden we're thrown yet another hurdle. You know, I was talking with Brett from The 395 this morning. And he said that their their income on their sales on Wednesday night is down by two thirds since they've had to stop trivia, which for them means they had to cut staff. They went from two bartenders working to just one that means that her income is dramatically affected because her tips are less. And I've seen the same thing at brewers cabinet. When you know, even though they tried to switch to a different game they had they quit promoting it on social media. And they went from 80 players for trivia on average on a Thursday night to, you know, 45 the first week to about 20 Last week, because they can't promote. City officials said the change was driven by a complaint against a business hosting trivia nights. But Vicki said her complaints have not been considered. She's emailed the city spoken during public comment at a city council meeting. And the city has doubled down on requiring cabaret licenses. It seems like every person we ask at the city, they dig their heels in deeper and say, Nope, this is the way it is. And I think the part that hurts the most is I'm seeing the ripple effect. It's this is not just about my business, although it obviously affects me and my husband and our family, and our ability to take care of our kids and our bills, and the money that we spend here in our community where we live and work. It affects my employees who have lost their shifts, and that affects their ability to pay their bills and their ability to continue to spend money in that community. But the impact it's having on our clients, who are the bars and restaurants that are struggling to just bring people back and literally just still in recovery mode, financially, dealing with some labor and staffing shortages, but just really trying to recover. And it's just really sad to me. And I think that the domino effect of fewer people going out on these weeknights, and spending money at these places, is going to affect other revenue streams like sales tax, and, you know, the people that are no longer getting paid for those nights and are we're all spending less money because we have less money coming in. So there's something about this decision. That seems very counterproductive to me. And I'm not an economic expert, but it doesn't make sense to continue to swatch small businesses. And the fact that Rena was the only city left in Nevada that still has a cabaret license requirements. It's it's an outdated thing. It was designed to target small businesses so that the casinos could have less competition. It doesn't make any sense. Now, these are businesses that already paid for a liquor license and already paid. I've done all of their zoning fees. You know, they already have their business licenses. You know, why does it matter that they're running a trivia League? Bret Schafer is co owner of 395 craft beer and spirits in the north valleys, his pub open just prior to the pandemic. We had DJ trivia every Wednesday night for the last three years and I know they've been in business the last nine years. And it was last month or earlier this month, late last month that the city of Reno came in and let the business trivia people know Vicky that we can no longer do DJ trivia because they fall under live entertainment now. I guess I was told by the city of Reno and Ashley tourney, that they have always fell under this and that there was a complaint about DJ trivia. And that's what brought this up. And now I know eight bars that are not doing it. But of those eight fives have now applied for getting a cabaret license. The cabaret license aren't very cheap. There was $3,731 for conditional use permit a minor so you'd have to be done by 9pm each night. That would include other things with your live entertainment. Besides DJ trivia, you get music and karaoke. Or you can get one that you can go past nine o'clock and that one is almost $400 more and you have to be seen by the city of Reno which takes up some time to he said that he has lost 1000s of dollars because of the city's recent decision with us ourselves. We've seen our our nightly Wednesday. Sales have gone down on the average of$600 which isn't good, especially for our employees. Their tips have been cut in half and actually we're going to have to lay for not scheduled somebody. You only have one person doing a Wednesday now because there's no need for that since we don't have DJ trivia And besides that, the another financial issue of with DJ not having DJ trivia as we have four food places in the center, and every Wednesday, everybody gets some food from these places and come over. So now their sales have decreased. And along with having to cut back on shifts and not enough, the tips are cut in half now, these employees don't have enough money to go out and spin in, out and about in the city. Schafer said the city's decision actually negatively impacts local governments in lost revenues to the tune of 10s of 1000s of dollars. Besides just you know, you can complain about stuff. But I was like, Well, why can't we do things like maybe those eight businesses can have be grandfathered in, or, you know, a license a cabaret license, sitting cost the same for a 1200 square foot bar as a casino.$4,000 for a small bar is a lot compared to $4,000 for a casino. So maybe they could start doing it by square footage. When you have to buy the license, or maybe they categorize these a trivia under League and not live entertainment. Or maybe give us some more time, we just got out of the pandemic, within two months that we've been fully open without any restrictions at all. And already we're getting stuff taken away. And if you do the math, this is going to be it's going to be $191 A quarter times of eight, we're talking about, you know, $6,100 for the year, we're going to lose out on almost $32,000 in sales. So the sales tax, that's $2,600. That's just us. So if you multiply that even the by eight those now the county, I don't know how Washington County feels not getting $21,000 in tax revenue over $6,100. At the beginning, it's going to be more because if it's about $4,000, just to get this license. So that's 32,000 in the year plus your 6100. You're you're talking 38,000. And that's just the first year that the city will get but then after that it's $61. Well, the county doesn't get 21,000. And then now the state of taxation. Right now, I don't have an employee that's working on Wednesday night, and the tips are cut in half. So now that's less taxes going out for employee taxes. Yeah. So you're saying that by suddenly finding this regulation to enforce the government itself is now going to lose revenue? Direct and indirect? Yeah, to do the whole, if you start from the state level and work your way down, it just it's that old saying stepping over $1 to save a penny. Right. And if the city is in such a bad spot where $40,000 is gonna break them, you know, I get going forward. So that's why that was kind of like, yeah, maybe we grandfathered in. And if you read the statutes, it doesn't fall underneath the city of Reno, what, what they defined for live entertainment, it'll fall under the neath the state. It says that if you have live TV, and or live sporting events, so are we going to just keep opening up, just peeling back these layers and next thing you know, everybody's gonna have to have one of these. We were told by this, the city that we say they're not enforcing that, well, I'm probably cutting off my own head but it's like, well, you can't pick and choose what you're going to force you enforce it all you don't enforce it at all. Schaefer said the process to get the license is both cumbersome and expensive. A lot of businesses will go up in an uproar if they had to get rid of live entertain as live sports without having this license. And then it could take three to six months to to get this license after you pay for it. You have to wait until you you get heard by the city depending on which one you get if you get the reminder you don't have to but let's say you have a sports bar that's 24 hours. They're gonna just turn off the TVs at nine it's just a little bit more than just DJ trivia and I need to pay to you know a couple more years. Now this falls under it now this falls under it or this is Reno I am Bob Conrad. Please Visit us online at this as