When I moved to Las Vegas in 2001, my first job was as a chauffeur on the Las Vegas Strip. A great way to learn all about Las Vegas in a hurry and experience it all while getting paid!
At that time, most of the limousine companies were owned by three main taxicab companies (a.k.a.The Taxicab Mafia). Like cab drivers, we were required to make a certain amount of money each day, often referred to as “Making Bank”. Everything over that amount we split with the limousine company 70/30. They got 70%, we got 30%. The tips were ours to keep.
Las Vegas tourism was still really booming! Business for limo’s was so good, I could literally live off my tips most of the time! The Strip still had several places hawking 99 cent shrimp cocktails and 99 cent beers. People were there to party.
Five resort companies controlled the Strip. Nobody owned more than 25% of the market and they really competed against each other for your business. It was GREAT!
Today the strip ownership is different. No real competition for your business. Ownership is more like 55% is owned by MGM, 40% is owned by Caesars, 5% are the others like Wynn and Cosmo.
Looking back, this is what many people call the end of the “good old days”. And it really was.
As a chauffeur, we could “float” the strip, looking, hunting for people needing a ride somewhere. The taxicab mafia had the front of the resorts under their control. Only allowing taxi stands to operate. This made it difficult for us to snag a ride from the front of the resort without having to slip something to the doorman.
Finding My Corner
During the evening, when all the shows were going, the business would slow down for a few hours and I would go hunting for a ride. On a Friday or Saturday night, that meant cruising down Harmon Avenue. Harmon was the cabbies speedway going from the Strip to the Airport. By law, they were not allowed to pick up anywhere but designated locations (taxi stands at the resorts). Meaning if you were standing on a corner, flagging a cab down as you would in any other major city in the world, they weren’t going to stop for you..
And right on the corner of Koval and Harmon was my “Bank”!
One block off the Strip and two blocks away from the hottest spot in Las Vegas on a Friday night, the Hard Hotel and Casino! And on that corner, I would find a couple trying to flag down a passing taxicab.
The story rarely changed. She was in her hot new dress she bought just for the trip as well as those really expensive high heels she never wore until now and one of them broke on the one block walk.
They were told by the bellman, that the Hard Rock was “Just Three Blocks Down” from the Strip. Not telling the couple that a city block in Las Vegas is a lot longer than most other city blocks. The distance of those three blocks was a little over one mile!
By the time I was in front of the Hard Rock, they were calmed down enough and back in the mood to party. The $55 ride (plus tip) was usually paid in cash. A quick “Vegas Handshake” as I opened the limo door and they were gone. Inside my palm was usually four twenty-dollar bills or a crumpled up”C” note ($100 bill) for a five-minute ride and quick lesson in Vegas vocabulary.
ICE was The Place!
On that same corner was ICE nightclub. ICE was the setting for one of the first reality television shows for the MTV cable channel. When they were open and they were shooting the show, it was a packed house. When not shooting, they would rent it out for hip hop and rap concerts. So it attracted all the “Look at Me” young people with a need to show off and party with the big $$ boys!
Since it was not always open, the cab owners never gave it a cab stand, so the taxi guys could not officially stop there to pick up. But I could!! And I never left empty or cheap!
Whenever you pick up a ride, you need to call in to dispatch to tell them where you are and where you are going. The other chauffeurs were either sitting at Bellagio, waiting to be called up for a ride, or out hunting like I was.
So when I called in, I told dispatch that I was picking up at the old folks’ condominium building across the street. The Marie Antoinette Condominiums. If you ever got a ride out of there, they never tipped, so nobody ever went there.
Saying I was there and not at ICE, I was safe from other drivers poaching my pond! For whatever reason, the other chauffeurs never came to see why I was making these pickups at the condo!
My “Bank” was safe from other chauffeurs getting wise and fishing in my pond.
The Party Had To End
Unfortunately, ICE didn’t last too long and the Palms Resort opened up on the other side of the Strip and it easier to find. With the Palms now open, they split the party crowd. The Palms also had the Hugh Hefner Suite and Moon Nightclub. Being newer, brighter, bigger, and more places to party, they got all the media attention. They soon won the majority of the night club action formerly controlled by the Hard Rock. Killing off my Bank.
By 2005, the new vegas was taking shape. Limiting our ability to go floating, adding more restrictions on hotel pickups, and other issues. I was also burning out. Too much excitement for this ol’ boy from Minnesota. And I finally gave it up. Stopping the chauffering gig and moving over to doing tours. This meant a huge hit on my income that was difficult to accept. But it needed to be done. I may have lost a lot of income but I gained my sanity back!
Sanity Has Price Tag!