LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – It started with a shopping cart fire and ended with businesses forced out of their units, all the while being expected to still pay rent.

The energy meters behind the Pecos Center on Tropicana and Pecos caught fire on April 27 when flames first ignited in a shopping cart full of wires feet away.

The Clark County Fire Department confirmed Tuesday that suppression crews determined the cause to be “accidental,” but have no witnesses or security footage to determine who or what caused it.

The back of the Pecos Center, and its damaged energy meters, on Wednesday. (KLAS)

At least seven small business owners who lost power that day, point to the nearby homeless community they say frequent the strip mall as causing it.

Regardless of who’s to blame, they now point the finger at their property manager and landlord.

A row of storefronts with signs reading “closed” now plague this east valley center as these same owners say they have only partial or no power almost six weeks later. Several of these signs indicate the businesses have moved to different locations or ceased operations altogether.

But, as Joey Scolaro with Lucino’s Pizza says, they’re still expected to pay rent without the ability to operate in the building they would pay rent for. He shared with 8 News Now a letter from Colliers International, the center’s property management company, that requested $1,966.91 in rent and $558.16 in common area maintenance fees for May and June.

Employees of Lucino’s Pizza dumped thousands of dollars of dough from their defunct refrigerator after a fire left them without power in April 2024. (KLAS)

“How do you expect us to do that?” Scolaro said, standing in the now empty unit his pizza shop once occupied Wednesday morning. “This is a job that’s going to take easily five to six months because you have to draw all the plans, you have to submit them, you have to get approved for them.”

He adds that his property manager has not relayed a timeline of when power is expected to be fully reconnected to the center. He’s since moved to a new location in the Tropicana Centre, on Tropicana and Mcleod, that he first must renovate before opening, leaving him without a paycheck for months.

Aniela Szymanski represents this Pizza shop owner and has tried contacting his property manager for over a year, she says. Her initial complaints in 2023 involved a lack of security patrolling the center and no barriers present, like a fence, to prevent access to the energy meters behind the building.

She said those requests frequently were ignored and, because of that, gave way to the April fire and loss of the business’s ability to operate.

Warning signs Clark County building inspectors placed on impacted units after the shopping cart fire in April 2024. (KLAS)

“The situation, instead of getting better, actually got worse,” Szymanski said inside her East Valley office Wednesday afternoon. “The landlord is not providing what the landlord is required to provide in the lease, namely, a place for him to operate his business.”

Because of this breach of contract, as she describes it, she’s now fighting to release Scolaro from his lease. She does not expect a release on the landlord’s terms.

“They have no choice but to allow my client and all the other businesses impacted by this out of this lease and immediately refund their security deposits,” Szymanski said. “Given their lack of responsiveness, I don’t believe we have a possible resolution other than to force them to respond in court.”

The specific Colliers International property manager for the Pecos Center never returned requests for comment made after the April fire. She did not respond to multiple requests over three days for this story, besides two short phone calls that ended when 8 News Now Reporter Ryan Matthey identified himself verbally.

In the meantime, Scolaro is multitasking: juggling the brewing legal potential and preparing his new location for business. He says he can fit over four times the number of customers here than at his old location.

“I guess you can compare it to a child, where your kid goes off to college, and you’re kind of just like, ‘I’ll miss ya,’” Scolaro said, referencing the pizza shop’s first location. “All the energy that was in this place was always electric and it was always fun in here. Now when you come in here, it’s just sad.”

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