Activists, Aldermen Seek To Kill Effort To Allow Alcohol Sales At Strip Clubs

CHICAGO (CBS) — Community groups and some aldermen have spearheaded opposition to a plan to allow liquor sales at clubs that allow topless dancing or possibly even full nudity.

Under current city law, clubs in Chicago must choose between serving alcohol and allowing topless dancers, but Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) has proposed an ordinance that would allow clubs to have both semi-nude dancing and alcohol sales.

The proposal has stalled after the Zoning Committee gave it preliminary approval last month, after Mitts backed away from the measure, saying she was surprised the proposal would also allow clubs that feature full nudity to sell liquor. She said she had only intended to allow clubs with topless dancers to serve booze.

Lynne Johnson, policy director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, wants the measure defeated altogether, especially since it has not received a full hearing.

“If the Chicago City Council wants to reverse course on this effective public policy, they should be willing to have public hearings to listen to service providers, experts, and survivors who can share the range of perspectives on harms that alcohol in the clubs would cause,” she said.

Johnson said she wants to preserve the current policy of barring liquor sales at strip clubs, claiming drunken customers lead to rowdiness, sexual abuse, and worse.

“Bringing alcohol into strip clubs will cause an explosion of these clubs in neighborhoods throughout Chicago, causing increased crime, sex trafficking, and chaos,” she said.

Mitts has said, under current regulations, strip club patrons have been allowed to bring in their own booze to strip clubs, so many patrons have been getting drunk, and then going outside and acting rowdy. Her proposal would require clubs to regulate their clients’ alcohol intake.

Five aldermen, including Toni Foulkes of the 16th Ward, stood with Johnson in opposition to Mitts’ proposal.

“Neighborhoods like mine, they struggle; Englewood, Chicago Lawn. We don’t need strip joints. We need safe streets, living wage jobs, and good schools,” she said.

Proposals to allow alcohol sales at strip clubs in Chicago have been abandoned twice in recent years, after sponsoring aldermen expressed surprise at what was actually in the measures they were backing. Last month, Mitts said she was alarmed to find her proposal had been drafted to allow full-nudity clubs to sell alcohol. Two years ago, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) killed a plan to prohibit adult book stores and movie theaters from converting into strip clubs, claiming it had been changed to allow topless dancing and alcohol sales, which he opposed.

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