Searching for a new image, restaurant owner chooses wings, sports and rock
Appeal Staff Writer
MOUND HOUSE – A cosmopolitan-inspired restaurant didn’t work in this industrial community centered off Highway 50 East, so the owner went to the other end of the spectrum: a wing house/sports bar.
But it may not have been the upper-class image that kept diners away. Dick’s Winghouse Sports Bar is the reinvented NV50, owned by Dennis Hof, infamous for his role in Nevada’s legalized prostitution business.
Located less than a mile from the sports bar is Hof’s BunnyRanch brothel, where the HBO “Cathouse” series has been filmed. With the brothel comes Hof and his reputation as one of America’s most recognized pimps.
Brothels are a legitimate, highly regulated business in most of rural Nevada, and Hof doesn’t seem too eager to disassociate himself from the industry that has benefited him.
This reputation can make it hard for some area residents, or other business owners, to separate the brothel from the bar, said Cary Dyer, executive director of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.
Now that it’s Dick’s Winghouse, the chamber executive isn’t sure if the separation is any more clearer. A road house doesn’t have the best connotation either, he said.
“I think that’s the battle he’s going to have to fight,” Dyer said.
It’s a fight that Hof seems determined to wage and win. For those who criticize him he points around the dining room at the full tables during a Wednesday lunch rush. When you’re in bed with a brothel, your other business might suffer. Or not?
“We put all this together to come up with the best road house, wing house, sports bar and house of rock,” Hof said at his 10051 Highway 50 East sports bar.
Hof addresses, but then innocently waves off any concerns that his restaurant is a little too close to the brothel down the street. The local perception is strong that his restaurant was a place where prostitutes acted racy and fights broke out.
At the sports bar he smiles at customers and greets many of them like old friends. Hof said his BunnyRanch workers did frequent NV50, but they had to dress and act a certain way, or face trouble with the brothel madam.
He acknowledges that some may see the new name of the restaurant as salacious. Hof named the sports bar after radio personality Big Dick Hunter, who is also a close friend of his. Hof stopped short of using the full moniker, saying that was “a little strong.”
Where other commercial businesses are struggling off Highway 50 East through Mound House, Hof is investing more money and renovating.
To open NV50 in December 2004 took about $1.5 million. Since then he’s been generous with his restaurant toward local charities and benefits. Recent renovations to create the sports bar atmosphere are pegged at about $200,000. He’s closed on Sunday and gives discounts to police and firefighters on Thursday.
“I spent a couple million to give Carson City a fun place to go eat and a great place to listen to live rock music, who else does that?” Hof said. “I don’t let a few haters give me a hard time.”
He’s kept some of the more popular items that were on the NV50 menu – such as the steaks and salads – and has added the “naked wings” and discount beer nights.
Hof added several components found in other popular restaurants, such as butcher paper on the tables for customers wanting to doodles while they wait, and “build your own burger or pizza” check lists.
Diners are instructed to toss balled up napkins at servers to get their attention. Some customers’ table poetry or drawings are posted on a wall, all in an effort to create a comfortable atmosphere.
The hip-hop music and all the conflict it created with the under-30 crowd is gone, he said. Hof admits NV50 and its lounge attracted trouble – though he professes that it was overblown.
“When you eliminate the hip-hop crowd you eliminate those opportunities,” he said.
Whatever the association people make about Dick’s Winghouse, there are customers coming.
Bob Williams, who was lunching with friends that day, said he enjoys the friendly atmosphere and service. He recommends the rib eye sandwich.
“There was nothing left, so it was good,” he said.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.