Nevada's Nye County Considers Getting Rid of Legal Brothels

Nevada's Nye County Considers Getting Rid of Legal Brothels
Rhett Pardon

TONOPAH, Nev. — A commissioner in Nye County, Nev., last week said she is proposing an initiative for the November ballot that seeks to outlaw legal prostitution and throw five brothels out of the county.

Nye County is one of 16 counties in Nevada where prostitution is legal.

Lorinda Wichman, a Nye County commissioner, told three other board members and the public at its last meeting that she already has staff looking into what it is costing taxpayers to have legalized prostitution.

“I asked them to compare what it is costing us to what we receive,” Wichman said at the meeting. “My curiosity is to whether or not taxpayers of Nye County are subsidizing the brothel industry.”

“I want to see what voters think about keeping prostitution in Nye County,” Wichman said.

According to a report, rural Nye County collected $85,000 in brothel licenses, as long with $56,800 in brothel work card fees for the fiscal year 2017.

A substantial portion of the county's brothel license tax goes to help fund local EMT services and veterans' groups. The seat of Nye County's government in Tonopah is 160 miles from Pahrump, which is 60 miles from Las Vegas.

Sheri's Ranch, Chicken Ranch, Love Ranch, Dennis Hof’s Cathouse and Dennis Hof’s Alien Cathouse brothels legally do business under Nye County Code 9.20.

Other jurisdictions in Nevada where prostitution is legal include Mineral, Lyon, Lander, White Pine, Elko, Humboldt and Storey counties. Churchill, Esmerelda, Eureka and Pershing counties can have brothels, but currently don't have active businesses.

Brothels in Nevada serve approximately 400,000 clients a year and generate a profit of $35-50 million, according to a study conducted in 2006.

The subject about the fate of brothels in Nye County was raised after the board on Friday discussed and deliberated the current suspension of a “privilege license” for Dennis Hof’s Love Ranch brothel, and whether to lift or retain the suspension.

The board approved a motion to rescind the Love Ranch suspension based on future compliance of numerous provisions in regards to more than 30 violations found on the property, as well as the production of a monthly status report.

Hof, who is seeking the Republican nomination for state Assembly District 36 and owns three of Nye County’s five brothels, said that elimination of the brothels is politically motivated. He has responded with multiple lawsuits against the county over what he sees as “politics at its worst.”

“We call her ‘Witchhunt Wichman’ for a reason,” Hof told XBIZ. “She and others in the county are using every tool to put me out of business. It’s an abuse of power, and they are changing the width of the goal posts as they go along.

“They haven’t done enough damage to my business and reputations; now they want to take out all the brothels,” Hof said. “She didn’t get what she wanted in keeping me closed. Now she is trying to get rid of the whole industry.”

View the contentious board meeting here (Item No. 3 offers discussion on the Love Ranch action and legal prostitution issues).

Pictured: Dennis Hof

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