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Lincoln Park neighbors don’t want to party with Flirty Girl

Flirty Girl Fitness routine lead by instructor Lindy Endres. | Provided photo

Flirty Girl Fitness routine lead by instructor Lindy Endres. | Provided photo

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Updated: February 15, 2013 6:20AM

Lincoln Park residents don’t want a sexy women’s fitness center to host private parties that spill onto Halsted Street until 3 a.m.

They say they were misled about the center by Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and Flirty Girl Fitness owner Kerry Knee. Neighbor Alan Kravitz says “the more we learn, the more we don’t like” about the gym that hosts parties and charity events.

Knee, 42, and her sister successfully opened the first in the chain of pole-dancing, chair-dancing and all-other-dancing women’s fitness centers in 2005 in Toronto. They have a West Loop center. And the Lincoln Park gym, located between Webster and Belden, opened in September.

Knee saidone of her company’s goals is to serve as a women’s social club, one in which members and non-members can host business events or even a private night out.

She expects to book up to three private parties a month in Lincoln Park, in addition to the nearly 100 bachelorette parties a month the gym will host during business hours once it secures a liquor license.

Knee has applied for an “incidental” liquor license and a public place of amusement license. The licenses could be approved as soon as the end of January.

She said she needs the amusement license because she allows people to drop in for classes without being a member and because patrons sometimes will be charged a fee to attend private events.

But neighbors say the license also would allow for other events, including live music that could go until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends, which they don’t want on their mostly residential block.

Knee said she had no plans to host live bands, though some events will feature a DJ. Private events can last from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., she says, though she also anticipated “rare” occasions when the party would keep flowing until 2 a.m.

“There are times when we will do an event that is not a bachelorette party, and it will go on late,” Knee said. “It’s occasional, and it’s private. You can’t walk in from the street from it. We’re never, ever a bar at any time.”

Knee said she also faced resistance in getting licenses when she opened her West Loop location.

“It’s not normal for a fitness club to have a liquor license,” she said. “But we try not to be a fitness club.”

She added, “I went to the alderman before we even opened and explained it to her. . . . I won’t even attempt to lease and get a liquor license unless I have the alderman’s support, and I got the thumbs-up.”

Kravitz attended a community meeting with fellow neighbors on Nov. 26, and she said Smith never mentioned an amusement license, just the liquor license. Kravitz and others, including former Ald. Charles Bernardini, have signed a letter to Rosemary Krimbel, the city’s commissioner for the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, to try to block the amusement license.

“We really try to keep bars sort of from opening up along this stretch on Halsted . . . and what this looks like to us is a bar,” Kravitz said. “They can have parties and live music, and that’s the part of what Flirty Girl is doing that we’re having a problem with. There’s nothing stopping her from having parties until 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning, other than us stopping her from getting this license.”

The letter, signed by 64 people who live within 250 feet of Flirty Girl, says the amusement license shouldn’t be issued because Flirty Girl is within 200 feet of a school or other education facility — St. Vincent de Paul Center, a social services facility for the poor that provides care for more than 400 children.

It would be illegal to grant this license because of St. Vincent’s proximity, the letter says.

It also says Flirty Girl is out of character with the residential neighborhood.

Smith said she doesn’t have a problem with Flirty Girl.

“There is no bar opening in the neighborhood, which I would have concerns about as well,” Smith said. “This is not a bar.”

Smith said that the type of license Knee applied for can’t be transferred to another bar or restaurant if Flirty Girl closes and that people “don’t understand the business.”

And residents’ claims that it’s too close to a school won’t make the cut; St. Vincent’s is considered a private, early childhood facility and falls outside the definition of a public or private school that provides state mandated education as the term “school.”

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