Famed brothel is set to reopen - but can they use the name?

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The Independent US

One of the most famous brothels in the American West is set to reopen, five years after it was shut down by the federal authorities. But just days before the establishment in the Nevada desert once again opens to offer its charms, it is far from clear what it will be called.

For years, the Mustang Ranch had a legendary reputation as a free-wheeling establishment that lured the lonely, the lascivious and the downright desperate from across the region and beyond. Books have been written about the place and the women who have worked there since it was set up by the colourful Joe Conforte in 1967. In 1971, after a series of courtroom struggles, it became the first of Nevada's many legal brothels.

The 104-room Mustang Ranch was shut down five years ago and the property seized by the authorities after its owners were convicted of racketeering. Since then the local county has granted a licence to Lance Gilman, the owner of the Wild Horse Resort and Spa, to open a second brothel east of Reno, but there is a legal argument as to whether he will be allowed to call it the Mustang Ranch.

Mr Gilman argues that he has every right to, pointing out that the government seized the original and padlocked the doors. He bought it from the authorities on eBay for $145,000 (£76,000) and moved all of the brothel's buildings to the Wild Horse site. He says the name should come with the property.

Others do not agree. Oscar Williams, the owner of Ambient Entertainment of Reno, claims to have the rights to the Mustang Ranch trademark for clothing and other merchandise, and David Burgess, the owner of the Old Bridge Ranch, also objects to the use of the name. His brothel is located next to the former Mustang Ranch site.

When he retired from the business in 1991, Mr Conforte estimated that during his 36 years in the brothel business - the Mustang Ranch was not his first venture - his workers had served and satisfied more than 1.5 million customers. When the tax authorities came looking for unpaid monies, he moved to Brazil.

Alexia Albert, a Harvard medical student, spent time at the brothel speaking to the women for a public health survey. Her work was published as Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its Women.

The decision on what Mr Gilman's new establishment can call itself will be made by the Storey Country Commission. It has postponed the decision until its next meeting, later this month.