The nuns of a convent in suburban Chicago have filed suit against a neighboring strip club, saying it creates a common law nuisance and is operating in violation of state law.
The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, of Melrose Park, contend in their lawsuit that Club Allure, which abuts their property to the south, breaks a state law prohibiting adult entertainment clubs within close proximity to schools or places of worship. But they further contend that they are constantly exposed to indignities like "public violence, drunkenness, and litter," along with discarded contraceptive packages, even used syringes.
"Operation of Club Allure since last autumn has been in open and defiant contravention of the Illinois state law that mandates a 1,000 foot buffer zone between such an adult entertainment facility and places of worship or schools," the suit states. "The Sisters' property is a place of worship which includes three chapels within the three buildings on their property immediately adjacent to the strip club."
"It goes against what we believe as religious women," says Sister Maria Noemia Silva. "We're fighting for a safe, healthy environment here, and for the club to close."
The suit names the club's owners and the Village of Stone Park, the west suburban community which granted its license to operate. The suit states the club's operators sued Stone Park when they were initially denied a permit, alleging they were refused only after they rejected a shakedown attempt by a Stone Park city official.
The suit says the permit was issued after that lawsuit was settled.
An attorney for Stone Park did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. But the club's Robert Itzkow vehemently denied the allegations.
"It's absolutely absurd that people can make these types of claims without any kind of backing at all," Itzkow said. "Our calls for service may be less than at the convent."
Itzkow says there's only been one police report in the entire 11+ months that the club has been open, and "we dealt with that immediately." In total, he says, the police have been called only three times
"We're not a nuisance to them," he said. " Nuisances cannot be perceived. They have to be real and there is no actual evidence that we are a nuisance. You'd have to have police reports to back them up and there just aren't all these police reports."
Neighbor Patricia Zito, who has lived in the area for 47 years, joined the nuns in the complaint.
"We are violated," she said. "We have a new generation of young families who should not put up with this."
Attorney Peter Breen, who represents the nuns, insists they are on solid ground.
"This is something that can be regulated by law, and those laws can be enforced by the courts," Breen said. "They're certainly not considering the impact that they're having on this community any serious way."
But Itzkow bristled at suggestions that his club was a bad neighbor, insisting that the complaints about noise and flashing lights were unfounded.
"We spent an awful lot of money to make sure that this kind of thing would not occur," he said. "The whole thing is just a question of 'we don't like you; you don't conform to our religious beliefs.'"
"[Our dancers] aren't monsters. They're daughters; they're mothers, and some of them are Catholics too."