Silver Club Could Become Hillbilly Casino

SPARKS, NV - Max Baer Jr. is considering buying a closed hotel-casino in Sparks and turning it into Jethro's Beverly Hillbillies Hotel and Casino based on the television sitcom he co-starred on during the 1960s.

Sparks Mayor Geno Martini confirmed Baer has met with city officials and at least three city councilmen about the possible purchase of the former Silver Club.

The former actor and director who has a home at Lake Tahoe already has approval to build his casino next to a retail complex being built in northern Douglas County about 30 miles south of Reno and Sparks.

But he's exploring other options because the construction of that retail complex has stalled, his spokesman Don Smith said.

"He (Baer) has not necessarily given up on Douglas County," Smit told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "But because of the (economic) climate, his age and his desire to get this thing built, he has to explore every available opportunity to see his dream come to fruition."

Baer, 71, also has met with Michonne Ascuaga, the CEO of John
Ascuaga's Nugget, which stands across the Silver Club on its Victorian Square frontage, City Councilman Phil Salerno said.

Baer, however, has not met with any representatives of Harold Holder, the owner of the Silver Club.

The Silver Club, which is now closed, is one is six Holder casinos in Nevada that have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, a Holder spokesman said Wednesday. All of the properties are for sale.

Certain to be an issue would be Baer's desire to install a 200-foot oil derrick sign, Salerno said. Sparks municipal code would have to be amended by the City Council to build a sign that big, city staffers said. Currently, municipal code would only allow a sign about 50-feet tall, said Randy Mellinger, Sparks' assistant city manager.

It was his determination to build a derrick with a flame on top that kept him from winning approval to build a casino in Reno 10 years ago.

Smit said Baer met with Ascuaga last week.

"I don't think Max was looking for their approval. He was just letting them know what he as thinking about. He thinks the two would be compatible," Smit said.

"The Silver Club has had its problems in the past but Max believes that it could be a success, which would only help the Victorian Square area. But Max felt it would require a good relationship with the Nugget across the street."