Impending sale of Frias cabs a sign of rapidly changing times in LV By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports January 14, 2019 at 8:00 pm It rarely pays to get too sentimental about a cab outfit, not even one in service in Las Vegas as long as the company founded by Charlie and Phyllis Frias has been motoring. It’s a tough business known for its cutthroat operators and calloused drivers, but it’s also played an integral role in the remarkable Las Vegas success story. Transportation has long been a key – if sometimes underappreciated – element in the great Strip and downtown tourism machines. In a community that has yet to embrace public transportation at a breakthrough level, an army of taxis has been the casino industry’s essential partner. Like so much in Las Vegas, that relationship is changing right before our eyes as ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have grown in popularity and new technology is tested. But about the Frias family: Charlie and Phyllis Frias set an impressive reminder that even those tough tax bosses can have a big heart and participate in making the community a better place to live. They accomplished that in many generous ways. The Frias companies, which employ 1,100 and include the Ace, A NLV, Union, Vegas-Western and Virgin Valley taxis, through a family charitable trust announced last week it is being sold to various interests. It’s another of what industry observers anticipate being a series of transitions in the cab business. Although it’s easy to call it an end of an era, it’s not much of a surprise in an industry undergoing such a rapid transition. Charlie and Phyllis Frias started their business humbly in 1961. With a few years, they purchased Union Cab and employed fewer their two-dozen drivers, with Charlie taking sifts behind the wheel and Phyllis handling the books. The Frias name became emblazoned in the cab industry in an era when disputes between players were sometimes violent. The so-called “Las Vegas Cab Wars” remain one of the underreported historical events in Southern Nevada history. If all the couple did was build up its bankroll in a boomtown, there wouldn’t be much left of the story to tell. But they embarked on a generous road of charity that continues to this day. In December, The Charles and Phyllis M. Frias Charitable Trust donated a magnificent dude ranch in Lincoln County valued at $9 million to the Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada. Co-trustee John H. Mowbray observed at the time of the donation, “During an extensive discernment process conducted over the past year, the trustees determined that no program has a better history of service to the girls in Southern Nevada than its inaugural recipient. While Phyllis and Charlie’s philanthropic focus during their lifetimes benefited the youth in Clark and Lincoln counties, this inaugural distribution will be expanded to include girls in Nye and Esmeralda counties as well.” The Frias family will be remembered as honorable operators and a whole lot more as the industry continues its transition. Nevada Taxicab Authority Administrator Scott Whittemore captured the essence of the changing times in a recent email to board members. “It is anticipated that the five Frias companies and their transportation assets will be acquired and remain in service,” Whittemore wrote. “Based on several discussions with various ownership groups, this is one of the many probable mergers and acquisitions in the Las Vegas taxicab marketplace. The next 12 months should prove very interesting. “While the legacy interests may be shifting, it is very positive to see new groups and individuals stepping forward to lead the future.” Speaking of interesting, the future promises to be just that. Taxi industry analysts suggest that, while the rising popularity of ride sharing operators continues, yet another generation of transportation is only a few years away: driverless cabs. What was a pipe dream a few years ago, and remains controversial today, just may come to fruition on the streets of the Las Vegas of the not-too-distant future. Contact John L. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.