Pinnacle seeks to write last chapter for 'adult bookstore'

Sep 21, 2008 Full story: Press of Atlantic City

There is no piece of real estate on the Atlantic City-inspired board game of Monopoly that is labeled "adult bookstore." But a real-life version of Monopoly being played out now suggests that the owner of a ...

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Since: Feb 08

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#1 Sep 21, 2008


Pinnacle seeks to write last chapter for 'adult bookstore'

(Published: Sunday, September 21, 2008)

ATLANTIC CITY - There is no piece of real estate on the Atlantic City-inspired board game of Monopoly that is labeled "adult bookstore."

But a real-life version of Monopoly being played out now suggests that the owner of a magazine shop that sells adult books thinks his property is every bit as valuable as any you'll find in the game.

The name of the business is the G-rated-sounding Atlantic City News Agency, a three-story building at a prime location at Pacific Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the center of town.

Making no attempt to hide his disgust, the head of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. has been calling the shop a "really tawdry adult bookstore" in what is shaping up as a bitter fight to demolish the building to create space for the company's proposed $1.5 billion to $2 billion casino.

Dan Lee, Pinnacle chairman and chief executive officer, is growing frustrated with what he says is the store owner's absurdly high asking price for the property.

"I think his number is in the ballpark of $100 million an acre," Lee told the New Jersey Casino Control Commission during a hearing last month that partly focused on the difficulties Pinnacle has had in buying some surrounding properties.

So far, Pinnacle has spent about $360 million on land acquisition. That figure includes the $270 million Pinnacle paid for the old Sands Casino Hotel, which was imploded last fall to make room for the proposed megaresort.

Lee complained to the CCC that Pinnacle has run up against the same problems that so many other casino companies have encountered in the past 30 years trying to acquire privately owned land for their projects.

"I think we've talked with every adjoining landowner," Lee said. "What they valued their land at was either high or ridiculous. Those that were high, I think in every case we've reached a deal. Those who are ridiculous, we have not.

"So, that's where it is," he continued. "That's the hurdle of operating here. Every single casino developer that's tried to build along the Boardwalk has a horror story to tell you about."

Although Lee claims the bookstore owner is demanding what amounts to $100 million per acre, neither side would divulge the actual asking price. Pinnacle insists it doesn't really need to buy the bookstore because it already has enough land, about 20 acres, to build the new casino.

Glenn A. Zeitz, a Haddonfield attorney representing the store's owner, Stuart Weiss, said he was surprised and disappointed with Lee's remarks. Up to this point, negotiations between the store and Pinnacle representatives had been cordial, he said, adding that one of Pinnacle's employees even baked a birthday cake for Weiss.
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Since: Feb 08

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#2 Sep 21, 2008
Pinnacle seeks to write last chapter for 'adult bookstore'

(Published: Sunday, September 21, 2008)

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"As part of my representation of my client, I consulted with a well-respected appraiser to determine the value of the property," Zeitz said. "We had settlement discussions in the past. I think that we have acted in good faith at all times. When we had our meetings and discussions, nobody in my presence on behalf of Pinnacle ever suggested that what we were seeking was outrageous."

Lee told a different story to the CCC. During sworn testimony, he recounted a conversation he apparently had with Weiss, although he never mentioned Weiss's name.

"It's a really tawdry adult bookstore," Lee said. "He said he wanted a huge number. I said,'Well, what makes you think your land is worth this much?' And he said,'Well, if you build your building, I'll have more business.'"

Lee said he replied by threatening to design the new casino without a door on the bookstore side, essentially sealing off Weiss from getting any extra business generated by Pinnacle's customers.

Zeitz declined a request for an interview with Weiss, saying Weiss has been struggling with ill health and has been deeply troubled by Pinnacle's attempt to demolish a business he hopes to keep in his family.

"The prospect of losing it to eminent domain was emotionally troubling and trying," Zeitz said.

Zeitz was referring to discussions between Pinnacle and city officials to designate private property surrounding the casino site as a redevelopment zone. Properties within the zone could be declared as blighted, allowing the city to invoke its government power of eminent domain to acquire land on behalf of Pinnacle.

According to Zeitz, the city Planning Board chose to exclude Weiss's shop from the redevelopment zone because it has been a viable business for 32 years and a "good citizen."

Zeitz also said that despite Lee's complaints to the contrary, the bookstore's business primarily is in mainstream newspapers, magazines and periodicals, not pornographic material. He said the store's regular customers include the Atlantic City Public Library and several government agencies, such as the Casino Control Commission.

"It's kind of unfortunate that they are being portrayed in that light," Zeitz said of Lee's attempts to brand the business as a seedy bookstore.

What happens next is anybody's guess. Zeitz said his door remains open for discussions. Pinnacle spokeswoman Carmen Gonzales declined to comment.

But Lee suggested to the CCC that Weiss is no different than other landowners who simply think they can name their price and have the casinos pay it.

"Everybody thinks they have the key," Lee said. "It's really been sad, because everybody is trying to be the key piece of land that you absolutely have to have to build your billion-dollar place. Therefore, they can ask any price they want."

E-mail Donald Wittkowski:

DWittkowski@pressofac.com

Since: Feb 08

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#3 Sep 21, 2008
From the comment section after the story.

Well, Mr. Wittkowski, if there were ever a chance of a deal being done here, you have killed it. You get nowhere by trying to publicly humiliate and embarrass people. That is your intent, isn't it? You will only make them dig in more deeply.
Why was all of this Lee testimony not reported last month after the CCC hearings? Why wait a month and run a Sunday feature? Maybe to reach more people?
The alleged conversation with Mr. Weiss, do you think it really happened? Can you imagine a casino executive threatening to build a huge casino the size of a Borgata with no doors along one side of it just to spite one small business man? Sounds like a fire code violation for one thing, as well as just plain stupid. You think? Did those bright lights at the CCC question him on that point? Or did they just chuckle at the remark and think what a brilliant hard nosed negotiator he is?
And why do you focus on the Atlantic City News Agency? You never ask questions about Councilman Schultz's "Professional Arts Building" a few doors down on Pacific Ave.? If the print and TV media had been covering the seven months long planing board hearings, you would have known that his property was exempted early on from the redevelopment zone, perhaps at the second or third meeting. Not a word about that anywhere. How much will he ask for his property? Will you be focusing on him and his property in a future Sunday edition?

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