Ald. Scott Waguespack withdraws support for strip club ordinance
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter March 31, 2014 2:20PM
Ald. Scott Waguespack | Sun-Times files
Updated: May 2, 2014 6:18AM
The chief sponsor of a controversial strip club ordinance on Monday withdrew his support, arguing that his plan to prevent adult book stores, movie houses and bars from converting into strip joints had been hijacked for nefarious purposes.
“It came out differently than I intended. I wanted to regulate the bars — the places that were going up in my ward and putting up poles” that strippers use, said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), whose ward includes trendy Wicker Park.
“I’m looking at it right now as not being in support of it, even though I know the mayor had his own version of it or what he wanted done in the background.”
Waguespack said his original intent was to prevent “stores and bars from turning into adult cabarets overnight.” His mistake was “not realizing that there was a deal made separately” to let Chicago’s adult entertainment clubs sell liquor and offer seminude dancing at the same place.
“I’m not fully in support of what I put in,” Waguespack said.
Last month, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) temporarily derailed the strip club ordinance, unwilling to exacerbate a prostitution problem that, he claimed, already involves as many as 25,000 women per day.
On Monday, Fioretti reiterated those same concerns even as he acknowledged that the ordinance would be up for a final vote at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
“We are the global center for human trafficking. [Liquor] brings people to these locations and that’s what they’re looking for — not necessarily hand-in-hand, but a great majority of `em do look for” prostitutes, Fioretti said.
“We’re gonna vote `no’ because of the unintended consequences. It originally started off as just dealing with a problem in residential areas. Now, it’s giving liquor to all of these establishments. This is a multimillion-dollar business and now they want alcohol? They survived for all of these years without it.”
The ordinance was championed by Waguespack, whose old ward includes VIP’s A Gentlemen’s Club, 1531 N. Kingsbury St.
Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration allowed VIP’s, a clout-heavy joint that bills itself as “Chicago’s only full liquor and topless bar,” to stay open in exchange for $2.5 million in disputed back taxes and legal fees.
The mayor softened the blow of a settlement that resolved a 19-year legal battle by using the money to establish a new shelter for victims of domestic violence.
The city had tried since 1993 to shut down the club on grounds its dancers exposed too much of the female anatomy. VIP’s had countered by challenging the constitutionality of a city ordinance that makes it illegal to sell liquor and offer semi-nude dancing at the same establishment.
On the day the City Council’s Zoning Committee approved the strip club ordinance, Ald. Edward Burke (14th) reminded his colleagues that he championed the zoning restrictions that reined in strip clubs while a string of court cases were going against the city.
Chicago currently has “seven or eight” adult entertainment venues.
That includes the Admiral Theater, 3940 W. Lawrence Ave., which offers nude dancing without liquor. That won’t change under the new ordinance, unless dancers go seminude, like their counterparts at VIP’s.
“There’ve been no police reports of any kind of misconduct. 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,” Burke said on that day.