Las Vegas Tavern Operated As "Cocaine Bar" For Decades

By Lindsey Weedston 09/03/19

The Smuggle Inn operated for over 30 years before being shut down in March.

bartender talking to patron in Las Vegas "cocaine bar"

A former bartender for the Smuggle Inn dive bar in Las Vegas wrote a letter to a local judge saying that the establishment regularly sold cocaine to customers, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The bartender, Michelle Kirk, said she was hired there at age 28 without any knowledge of the alleged trafficking of this controlled substance. Twenty-four years later, the bar was shut down after a drug bust ended in her arrest and the arrest of another bartender and a few patrons.

Smuggle Inn

“I was hired at the Smuggle Inn at the age of 28,” Kirk, wrote to District Judge David Barker. “I didn’t realize when I started working there that it had been a cocaine bar for many years. It was basically the only reason people went there.”

Smuggle Inn operated for over 30 years at 1305 Vegas Valley Drive before being shut down in March 2019. Kirk pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell for having 58 grams of cocaine and $2,300, plus five grams of methamphetamine. She claims that she initially resisted taking part in selling the drug, but financial stress eventually compelled her to participate.

“The first year of my employment, I did not, would not, participate, due to the consequences,” she said. “After struggling to pay my bills for over a year, I succumbed. I only sold while I worked, just as most others that worked there.”

Deny, Deny, Deny

Both the owner and landlord of the bar have denied any responsibility for the drug operation and the owner, Richard DiCandilo, is not facing any charges. His attorney claims that DiCandilo “gave the keys to the landlord and walked away from the business” several months ago, though the cocaine selling appears to have gone on for many years. 

The landlord, Kevin Chin, also claimed ignorance, but said “that explains a lot.” He did, however, confess that a customer had once approached him about “cocaine on the bar,” but never investigated or reported this to the police.

Kirk, now 52, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and five years of probation with the condition that she complete a substance abuse evaluation and treatment plan. She wrote her letter to Judge Barker after nine days asking for early release, saying that she is a good person who made a really bad decision.

“I don’t even get in trouble in the detention center,” she said. “I am an honest, hard working, fun loving, caring, woman and mother that made a HUGE BAD CHOICE a long time ago.”

Her request was denied, and she served her time and was released earlier this month. She’s now looking to move on with her life as a law-abiding citizen, according to her lawyer.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: