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City could lift topless ban on strip clubs with liquor licenses after settling suit with trans woman

The proposed change “would remove a prohibition on displaying of female breasts at those establishments, as well as remove gendered language from that provision,” according to the Chicago Law Department.

Bea Sullivan-Knoff, a transgender performance artist, speaks at a 2016 press conference at City Hall.
Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Women could soon dance topless at Chicago strip clubs that serve booze after the city settled a lawsuit with a transgender women who claimed the current ban violates the U.S. Constitution.

Bea Sullivan-Knoff filed the federal suit in 2016 seeking to overturn the ordinance that prohibits liquor license holders from allowing women from exposing their breasts without imposing the same restriction on men.

Sullivan-Knoff, a performance artist, described the measure as “sexist and transphobic,” slamming the restriction as an “embarrassment” to a modern American city.

The Chicago Law Department on Thursday confirmed that a settlement had been reached.

“The City has agreed to introduce an amendment to a provision of the Municipal Code that regulates establishments in the City that hold liquor licenses,” according to a statement from the Law Department. “If approved by the City Council, this amendment would remove a prohibition on displaying of female breasts at those establishments, as well as remove gendered language from that provision.”

Sullivan-Knoff also sought compensatory and punitive damages for the difficulties she faced living as a working artist whose act depends on being bare-breasted. The city didn’t provide any details of a cash settlement.

The Shiller Preyer Law Offices, which represented Sullivan-Knoff, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the settlement.