Strip club ordinance hits a snag amid prostitution concerns

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A plan to let Chicago’s adult entertainment clubs sell liquor and offer semi-nude dancing at the same place ran into a roadblock Wednesday put up by an alderman concerned about prostitution.

At a City Council meeting, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) moved to defer a final vote on the strip club ordinance that’s been decades in the making.

“We need world-class adult entertainment. But the truth of the matter is, we have an underlying social problem. Between 15,000 and 25,000 women a day engage in prostitution,” Fioretti said.

“The human trafficking element in this city related to our conventions and our hotel industry are all things that need to be addressed first before we start going into these types of ordinances and allowing places like this to serve alcohol.”

Should adult entertainment clubs in Chicago be able to sell liquor and offer semi-nude dancing at the same place?

Fioretti said he understands the motive behind the strip club ordinance introduced by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd). Waguespack wanted to stop certain bars doubling as strip clubs near residential areas in his ward, Fioretti said.

But since then, Fioretti said he’s talked to attorneys who’ve represented those clients and they’ve assured him those neighborhood places have been closed down and ticketed by the city. They can’t get licensed.

“All of those kinds of things negate what this ordinance may be about. I don’t see anything wrong with the current status of the ordinances,” he said.

Fioretti said when the strip club ordinance was written, there were certain areas of the city where adult entertainment was permitted. Since then, “residential gentrification” has hit some of those areas.

“So be it. They can be grandfathered. But at the same time, we have to take a long look at this. The underlying problem that I see is the amount of prostitution in this city. That underground activity undermines us a city — a world-class city,” he said.

The ordinance was championed by Waguespack, whose old ward includes VIP’s A Gentlemen’s Club, 1531 N. Kingsbury.

It also closes a legal loophole — by preventing adult book stores, movie houses and “live entertainment cabarets”  from “swapping uses” without first applying for a special use permit and adhering to zoning restrictions.

That means they can’t be located within 1,000 feet of a school, a religious assembly, another adult use or a district that is zoned residential. Nor can they be located within a planned manufacturing district.

Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration allowed VIP’s, a clout-heavy joint that bills itself as “Chicago’s only full liquor and topless bar,” to stay open in exchange for $2.5 million in disputed back taxes and legal fees.

The mayor softened the blow of a settlement that resolved a 19-year legal battle by using the money to establish a new shelter for victims of domestic violence.

The city had tried since 1993 to shut the club down on grounds its dancers exposed too much of the female anatomy. VIP’s had countered by challenging the constitutionality of a city ordinance that makes it illegal to sell liquor and offer semi-nude dancing at the same establishment.

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