News Column

Aldermen seek to curb unauthorized strip clubs

February 27, 2014

By Hal Dardick, Chicago Tribune



Feb. 28--The Chicago City Council is aiming to put an end to the impromptu conversion of adult bookstores, movie theaters and late-night bars into strip joints under liquor and zoning amendments aldermen endorsed Thursday.

Though the measure would explicitly outlaw strip clubs in places not licensed and zoned as "cabarets," it would make clear that clubs can mix drinks and erotic, seminude dancing if the owners of those places jump over a strict set of hurdles to obtain the right kind of adult-use license and zoning approval.

Under current city rules, strip clubs that serve or allow alcohol cannot feature fully nude performers, and that won't change under the measure. But the way Ald. Scott Waguepspack's proposal was drafted would also allow greater levels of nudity in strip joints where liquor is sold. As written, the measure would allow performers to go topless.

The measure is scheduled for a full council vote next Wednesday after members of the Zoning Committee gave it a unanimous recommendation. Waguespack, 32nd, said his primary aim was to stop late-night bars from bringing in strippers to attract late-hours business.

City liquor and zoning code disallowed that practice, and police often made efforts to shut down those strip clubs, but city code was not clear enough, the alderman said. "They could basically just start doing that type of activity because the code was vague enough to get away with it," Waguespack said.

If someone sought to open a new club with drinks and partial nudity, it could do so only if it obtained a cabaret license, met strict zoning codes and obtained a special-use permit that would require community hearings. Under city zoning code, cabarets must be 1,000 feet from homes, schools and houses of worship and not in what's known as a planned manufacturing district, city Zoning Administrator Patty Scudiero said.

Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, who in 1977 proposed those zoning restrictions to limit strip clubs, cited the Near North Side establishment VIP's while supporting the portion of the new proposal that would explicitly allow booze and partial nudity.

"There's been no police reports of any kind of misconduct," Burke said of VIP's, which for 19 years fought the city in court to stay open. "The neighbors don't object. And frankly, a world-class city like Chicago in terms of entertainment ought to have realistic kinds of adult entertainment venues that don't create a problem in the neighborhood. There's no residences near this place."

hdardick@tribune.comTwitter @ReporterHal

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Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)


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