By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada’s legal brothel industry, shut down in March of 2020 as part of Gov. Sisolak’s pandemic response, is booming again, Lance Gilman, the owner of the World Famous Mustang Ranch brothel, said this week on Nevada Newsmakers.
“That product is in high demand, Gilman told host Sam Shad. “They say if you want to be in two things in a recession, you want to be in alcohol and the ladies (prostitution). And I think that is absolutely true.”
The brothel re-opened in May, according to published reports.
“So it is good to be back,” said Gilman, also the partner-broker for the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRI), home to economy-changing companies like Tesla, Google and Switch.
“We were kept closed for over 14 months — clear, clean and closed — and it was a huge drain on the industry and myself,” Gilman said about his legal brothel.
Some of Nevada’s smaller counties, such as Storey and Lyon counties in Northern Nevada, allow legalized brothels, although they are heavily taxed. Prostitution is outlawed in Nevada’s urban counties of Clark and Washoe.
“The good news is, once the ‘open’ sign went out, gosh, yes sir, it’s back and it is to pre-Covid levels,” Gilman said about the customer response. “And its a wonderful industry to be in. You and I could share a lot of thoughts on it. I’ve been in it for over 20 years. And I cal tell you, candidly, I’m glad I made the choice.”
The brothel industry shutdown led to massive unemployment for Nevada’s sex workers and brothel staffers, Gilman said.
News-4 in Reno reported in late 2020 that some sex workers were forced to work in illegal prostitution to make ends meet. Nevada’s legal sex workers were denied federal covid relief funds that were sent to most Americans, Gilman said.
“It was disastrous,” Gilman said. “I was able to survive but it was so hard on all of the folks who work in the industry because there is a federal law that does not allow anyone who works in the industry to have help in their employment. So they could not get all of this help that was being given to everyone.
“So they (sex workers) were without,” Gilman added. “And the ladies who have been involved and have been for years — I have ladies who have been there for 15 years and more — and they were severely compromised and challenged.”
Gilman has said in the past that he designed Mustang to have luxurious accommodations and that someday, he’s like to upgrade it into a resort.
“It’s in its infancy at this point,” Gilman said about the proposed resort. “And, as a matter of fact, you’d be surprised, there are a lot of couples who are coming out and staying and there’s a lot of interest in the industry. The resort is beautiful. It’s a state-of-the art product. There are so many things I could tell you about it but, truly, it is upscale.”
The boon in construction and lack of temporary housing at TRI has turned some of the Mustang property into living space for the workers who continue to work construction at TRI, Gilman said.
“So we have a hotel operation going out there now that is being utilized by a lot of the construction folks,” Gilman said. “There is so much building going on at TRI, I don’t know when you’ve saw it last, but construction is everywhere. There is a lot of need for temporary housing and we can fulfill that need.”
Gilman and politics
Gilman, a longtime Republican, wields influence within the Northern Nevada business community. In 2018, he surprised some Republicans when he supported the eventual winner, Democrat Steve Sisolak, and not Republican candidate Adam Laxalt.
Gilman, however, would not commit to continued support for Sisolak for his 2022 re-election.
“There’s so much activity in the governor’s race. I’m waiting to kind of see what the primaries bring us. So I’d like to look at the playing field before I make a decision on those lines,” Gilman said.
“Certainly, Steve has led the state during some very difficult times and I’m sensitive to the fact that he has had his challenges. I’d prefer to wait until after the primary to decide which way we have to jump,” he said.
Gilman did have some concerns about the Democratically-controlled state government and it’s outlook on business. Yet he was not specific.
“I don’t know, based upon the leadership in Carson City, they need to have their eye on the ball when it comes to legislation and regulation,” Gilman said. “I can tell you there are already some serious concerns going on in certain segments in the industrial side of the world. Nevada can literally invite these folks to leave our state. And although they own large blocks of land, that is not a component that would keep them here in an adverse regulatory environment.”
He gushed, however, when talking about Nevada’s congressional delegation and its help in securing land for his proposed industrial park near Fernley. The land Gilman is considering for the park is a checkerboard of public and private lands. That means he must purchase land from the federal government, which can be a long process muddled in red tape and politics.
“Congressman Amodei has been phenomenal in working on the lands bill but also (Sen. Catherine) Cortez-Masto and (U.S. Rep. Steven) Horsford and or course, Sen. (Jacky) Rosen,” Gilman said. “Those people have all joined together on behalf of Northern Nevada and I can’t speak enough about the sincerity and commitment from our leadership in Washington. They are doing a yeoman’s job representing us.”
Gilman has said this new Fernley industrial park will rival the highly-successful TRI and predicted the industrial park will help make Fernley “the epicenter” of the regional economy.
An industrial park near Fernley, about 34 miles east of the Reno-Sparks area, would enjoy the same logistical advantages that made TRI attractive — like a nearby cargo airport in Reno, adjacent nationwide rail-lines and an Interstate highway system that can move products to any point in the western U.S. in one day or less.
“We’ve purchased 7,000 acres outside of Fernley in the project area,” Gilman said. “We are looking at developing the balance of about 20,000 acres, something similar to TRI. We would be building a ring road around Fernley to relieve that traffic congestion.”