Oct. 22--Police are calling Monday's fatal shooting at Drai's After Hours nightclub at Bally's that left one dead and two wounded an isolated incident. But the discreet and often nebulous security policies behind Las Vegas nightclubs mean that bringing weapons onto Strip properties, even when they're forbidden, isn't always difficult for those who try.
Like every nightclub on the Strip, the chic decor of Drai's is unblemished by boxy metal detectors, its patrons untouched by pat-downs from security guards as they wait to get in, greeted instead by doting hosts who welcome guests into the plush lounge for an evening of escape.
Over the past 15 years, Drai's -- which has temporarily relocated to Bally's during the renovation of Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon -- has cemented itself as a Strip staple, providing a reliable till-dawn destination for both resilient clubgoers and the local industry crowd leaving their graveyard shifts at other bars and clubs that typically close around 3 or 4 a.m.
Drai's, which plays hip-hop and house music and has a successful counterpart in Hollywood, has developed a more low-key, less glamorous reputation than some of its peers, but until Monday had no history of violent altercations, according to Metro.
In the wake of Monday's pre-dawn shooting, nightclub operators and casinos alike have been reluctant to discuss what measures are in place to prevent dangerous weapons from entering their premises.
Security experts say current practices leave nightlife venues, particularly nightclubs, vulnerable to worst-case scenarios like the one that unfolded at Drai's.
"They're not doing pat-downs at the door," said Robert Smith, CEO of San Diego-based Nightclub Security Consultants Inc. "One in 20 does that."
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When it comes to nightclub security, Frank DiCerbo carries an old-school mentality: more guards, less trouble.
But what worked in the early '90s, when he served as the Tropicana's director of security for more than a decade, isn't a sure sign of what works inside the nightclubs of today.
"Today's environment is much different," said DiCerbo, the 59-year-old owner of Templar Security & Protective Services, a private security firm in Las Vegas that works the doors for special events and small clubs. "These hoodlums don't respect human life."
But the security scheme of most modern nightclubs doesn't help much either, according to other security consultants.
Legally, residents with concealed firearm permits can carry licensed weapons to Strip venues, though each property reserves and will usually enact the right to restrict entrance to those individuals. However, patrons are only explicitly screened for weapons at sports and concert arenas with built-in security checkpoints.
Nightclubs and dayclubs will ask to examine patrons purses and other personal effects to check for narcotics, and many smaller clubs have a "pat down" policy and use elongated metal detectors called "wands" to search guests for knives or guns. But while most club policies prohibit firearms in the building, the most glamorous clubs in Las Vegas don't bother to check, Smith said.
Why? Because the last thing a big spender wants before getting the top bottle service is to deal with a big touchy bouncer -- a fact casino and nightclub operators are increasingly sensitive to, given an uptick in recent years of customer assault and battery lawsuits against property security at venues across the Strip.
The nicer the club, the easier the access for guests with enough cash to pay the cover charge, which could be as much as a $100 depending on the night and entertainment. So if a patron visits a high-end nightclub with a gun in his waistband, and security doesn't see it, he won't have much trouble getting his weapon on the dance floor if he has the dough to get through the front door.