Billboard drives home brothel ad issue
By Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer
Brothel owner Dennis Hof sees possibilities for his new billboard truck. Renting it out to companies. Advertising for his restaurant, Dick’s Roadhouse.
He said he’s most excited to use it to promote community events, though, such as the Oodles of Noodles Cook-Off in Dayton.
“I’m just about that,” he said.
But Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch outside Carson City, will use the 10-foot-tall, 22-foot-wide billboard to promote his legal brothel.
Advertising that business will be “secondary,” he said, but he will have it driven through Reno and around Lake Tahoe to attract visitors.
The ad would be the largest of its kind in Northern Nevada since a Las Vegas district judge struck down a brothel advertising ban in July.
Though the state attorney general has appealed the decision, ads have since run in several newspapers, including some owned by the Nevada Appeal’s parent company, the Sierra Nevada Media Group.
The Wild Horse Saloon, next to the Wild Horse Adult Resort & Spa, and the Mustang Ranch Museum, next to the Mustang Ranch Brothel, are also both advertised on the top of taxi cabs in Carson City and Reno.
The Chicken Ranch outside Las Vegas briefly used a billboard truck, but it was neither controversial nor successful, said George Flint, lobbyist for the Nevada Brothel Owners Association.
Brothels should avoid large ads, though, he said, even if they would attract more customers.
“We have a responsibility to be very very careful how we use this new right and privilege,” said Flint, who represents most brothels in the state, but not Hof’s.
Flint, who has consistently criticized Hof for not being discreet, said he is working on a bill outlining tighter advertising regulations that would be more difficult to constitutionally challenge.
While most people in Nevada don’t care if brothels advertise, Flint said, a small number of politicians could hurt what they do have.
But the attorney general will have a hard time with her appeal, said Allen Lichtenstein, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada attorney who won the case that overturned the advertising ban.
Lichtenstein said he doesn’t think a billboard sign would hurt the chances of brothels being allowed to continue to advertise, either. Local governments, he said, don’t have a right to regulate brothel advertisements any more that other legal businesses such as casinos and liquor companies.
The First Amendment “isn’t there to protect (only) popular speech, it’s there to protect all speech,” said Gary Peck, director of the ACLU of Nevada.
Reno City Attorney John Kadlic said he’s never specifically researched the regulation of brothel advertising, but the city likely doesn’t have a right to prevent it unless there is nudity.
No one has complained to him about any of the Wild Horse or Mustang ads, he said.
Conservative groups who want a ban on brothel advertising haven’t decided if they will go to court, said Richard Ziser of Nevada Concerned Citizens, and they are waiting to see what will happen with the attorney general’s appeal.
Hof himself said he doesn’t expect any challenges to his billboard advertising, especially since the brothel will not be the focus of the billboard truck.
He also pointed out that the truck passed through Carson City last week with an ad for his HBO show “Cathouse.”
He said he hasn’t gotten a single complaint.
• Contact reporter Dave Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-12