It’s not often that the nightclub-going public receives an invitation from a nightclub’s owner to contact the NAACP, ACORN (a community organization addressing the needs of low- and moderate-income families) and the ACLU of Nevada. The e-mail blast from Poetry owner Mike Goodwin went out on September 12. He thanked his database for its loyalty to OPM (later Poetry) since it opened in 2003, and apologized that they had to enter the club via an “often dirty” back-of-house hallway. “There are organizations in Las Vegas that are dedicated to equality,” the e-mail read. “Please do not hesitate to share your story with them.”
Since August of 2007, the gate that separates the Forum Shops from Caesars Palace’s casino floor has been shut on Friday and Saturday nights, prime time for any club. The sign placed in front of the closed gate informs guests only that the Forum Shops will reopen at 8 a.m., with no mention of Poetry being open within. Guests who know about the nondescript door into the back-of-house hallway may proceed through that into the mall. But there’s no telling how many people have taken their business elsewhere.
“It’s transparent, what their actions are,” says Goodwin of the shutout. He also notes that he receives only 25 gallons per minute of water with which to air-condition his club, while his lease, he says, guarantees him 150 gallons per minute.
Forum Shops LLC filed suit against Phase II Chin, the company that owns and operates restaurant Chinois (with whom Goodwin partnered in 2002 to open OPM), in October 2007 alleging that Chinois subleased the space to OPM and misrepresented the nature of the club they intended to open.
Goodwin and Chinois filed their own suit in January of 2008 in Nevada, against Simon Property Group and Caesars Palace. In their suit the partners allege that Simon has always known the nature of OPM, that Simon and Caesars “seek to force OPM [now Poetry] out of business because … it attracts ‘too many’ African-Americans, to the Forum Shops and the Caesars Palace complex generally.”
Furthermore, according to the suit, the mall’s common areas are to “remain open to the public 24 hours per day, 7 days per week,” though the shops close at 11 p.m. during the week, midnight on the weekend. Neither Caesars parent company Harrah’s nor Simon would comment on the suits or the closed gate.
Waddell Bennett, Caesars’ former assistant director of security, says he suggested closing the doors once to control club traffic but was shot down by his superiors saying that the fire marshal would have denied them. A temporary fix had security detouring crowds into the back hallways to empty the Forum Shops directly out toward self-parking at closing. But this too, says Bennett, was stopped after Caesars decided it did not want guests passing through the back of house.
“The only disturbances really were early and intermittent. Every now and then there’d be an altercation.” Enter Metro police. Since January 2004, Goodwin says he’s borne the cost of having two afterhours police officers at his entrance, calling it “a good investment.” When Bennett did visit OPM on occasion, “what I found,” he reports, “was an orderly line.”
“In all my years, the only time I ever saw these doors closed was on New Year’s Eve,” reports Tom Kaplan, senior managing partner of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group. “I am extremely disappointed at the way Caesars and Simon are handling this.”
Andy Brewer of the NAACP of Las Vegas confirmed that “a number of e-mails” were received by his office, but said that no one has followed through with filling out the proper complaint forms. The e-mails related to the nightclub—he estimates 10 to 20—are just a sliver of the thousands the NAACP receives on a daily basis. While just a few irate guests cannot help much without proper follow-through, Goodwin is on the right track that “sometimes results are seen when individuals unite to make their voices heard.” The next hearing on the four-way suit will be held on October 7.
On a sad note
DJ AM (Adam Goldstein) and drummer Travis Barker were hospitalized last Friday after a fatal plane crash in which, according to the Associated Press, the pilot, co-pilot and two members of Barker’s entourage were killed. At press time, both Barker and AM were being treated for second- and third-degree burns and listed in critical but stable condition. Pure Management Group issued this statement: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to both Adam and Travis. The PMG family is deeply saddened by the news of this unfortunate event, and we wish Adam and Travis a speedy recovery and send our sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones.”