CHICAGO (CBS) — A Cook County judge on Tuesday said a sisterhood of nuns in Melrose Park can press on with their lawsuit aimed at shutting down a strip club that opened next door to their convent six years ago.
The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo have been enjoying a quiet holiday season since the mayor of neighboring Stone Park last month revoked the liquor license of Club Allure, a move that apparently prompted the owners to shut down and stopped the late night sounds of music, motorcycles and fighting the nuns say the club attracts. At a hearing Tuesday, Judge Peter A. Flynn ruled that they can continue a legal battle aimed at shutting Allure down for good, though he said he will take no further action on the lawsuit until after the status of the club’s liquor license is resolved.
Flynn this spring turned back the nuns, claiming their complaints about noise and disturbances at the club were too vague to support a lawsuit, prompting lawyers for the Sisters to send forth private investigators into Allure to gather evidence.
In October, the Sisters filed a 57-page complaint including sordid details of doings inside the club, alleging that over the course of a dozen visits between 2014 and the spring of 2016, dancers treated the nuns’ investigators to full-contact lap dances and “simulated sex,” and outright offers of paid sex.
“Paid sexual contact, that was rampant on every occasion that our investigator visited the premises,” Scott Bergthold, attorney for the nuns, said outside the courtroom. “People were being paid to stimulate their sexual organs and engage in other paid sexual contact.”
Amy Hansen, lawyer for the club, said that there have been no arrests for prostitution or other criminal activity alleged by the nuns, and also noted that without a liquor license, Allure may never reopen.
“It’s obvious that a liquor license is vital to operators of this club,” Hansen said.
Robert Itzkow, an attorney who had been an investor in the club, said club owners would appeal a November decision by Stone Park Mayor Beniamino Mazzulla, who also is the town’s liquor commissioner, revoking Allure’s liquor license. Mazzulla ruled that the club, which had a license to serve booze since it opened in 2010, was within 100 feet of a “church” — the chapels on the nuns’ compound.
Hansen declined comment as she left the courthouse, and Itzkow, who did not attend the hearing, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Tom Murphy, a lawyer monitoring the liquor license dispute for the nuns, said Tuesday that Allure had appealed Mazzulla’s ruling to the state Liquor Control Commission. Itzkow said if the appeal fails in front of the state commission, Allure would challenge the ruling in circuit court.
Flynn pointed out that most of the case law the nuns’ lawyers used to build their case against the club was based on court rulings of “lewdness” and nuisance laws that dated back to the Prohibition era, when, Flynn said “blue noses” in the legislature passed sweeping and prudish laws on decency. Flynn said the case could proceed under state nuisance laws solely because the nuns alleged prostitution was taking place at Allure.
But for the past few weeks at least, the music has stopped for Club Allure, and for the nuns, there is peace on Earth, Bergthold said.
“I’m sure they’re enjoying the Advent season without the loud thumping noise and revving Harleys at 3 a.m. and all the nuisance-type activities that they’ve complained of,” Bergthold said. “I’m certain that it’s a better circumstance now.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2016. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)