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Ahern Hotel sues Nevada over coronavirus rules

Updated August 27, 2020 - 11:37 pm

A hotel that drew a fine for violating Nevada’s COVID-19 restrictions after hosting an “Evangelicals for Trump” campaign event this month is now suing the state and the city of Las Vegas over Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency directives.

The lawsuit was filed by Ahern Hotel and Convention Center in Clark County District Court on Monday afternoon, and names Sisolak, the state, Las Vegas, and the city’s director of planning, Robert Summerfield.

The company claims in the lawsuit that Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings to 50 people represents “disparate treatment” of Ahern and other like companies because there is “no rational basis” that a hotel or convention center should be treated differently than a restaurant or casino, which are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity.

The lawsuit is asking for the court to declare Sisolak’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people invalid and unenforceable and force the governor to amend his directive to allow hotels, convention centers and restaurants to host events, conferences or meetings if they meet the standards under Phase Two of Nevada’s reopening plan.

Sisolak’s spokeswoman declined to comment, and a city spokesman said they do not comment on pending or ongoing litigation.

Ahern was cited and fined $250 for violating Sisolak’s directive that limits public gatherings and private events to 50 people after it hosted the Aug. 6 “Evangelicals for Trump” campaign event, which drew roughly 550 people into the hotel’s convention center.

Don Ahern, owner of the hotel and president and CEO of Las Vegas-based Ahern Rentals, is a known GOP supporter who routinely hosts events at his hotel or rental businesses. Last month, the hotel hosted a meeting of the Nevada Republican Club in which Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman was the keynote speaker.

The hotel and campaign at the time both maintained that they were not in violation of Sisolak’s Phase Two executive order since it allowed hotels, restaurants, casinos and non-retail indoor facilities to operate at 50 percent occupancy. The hotel’s event center has a maximum occupancy of 1,600 people.

The lawsuit maintained that stance, even after Summerfield, the city’s planning director, sent the hotel a notice that the Trump campaign event would violate Sisolak’s directive.

Believing the hotel was subject to a different part of Sisolak’s directive, as opposed to the 50 percent limit, “Ahern Hotel management allowed the ‘Evangelicals for Trump’ event to proceed,” the complaint said.

Just days after the Trump campaign event, the hotel found itself visited by city enforcement officers once again, this time while hosting the Mrs. Nevada America pageant.

The city told the hotel that it had to close off the event to guests after it had exceeded the 50-person gathering limit. In the case of the pageant as well, the city had notified the company before the event that the event would violate the governor’s directive, but the city’s spokesman noted that a licensing officer was escorted off the property by hotel security.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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