A classic clash between the secular and the sacred has ratcheted up one notch in west suburban Stone Park. A group of Roman Catholic nuns appear to have won a round against a proposed gentleman’s club by default. But their battle against the sex industry which has set up shop in their back yard appears to be far from over.
Already, as NBC 5 and the Better Government Association reported last month, the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles had one very unwelcome neighbor, an establishment known as Club Allure, which opened literally ten feet behind their lot line, featuring glitzy shows, flashing lights, and topless dancers.
“This goes against our whole fiber, our whole being,” said sister Noemia Silva. “It goes against what we believe as religious women.”
The nuns, joined by the Village of Melrose Park, filed suit against Allure and the Village of Stone Park, which granted the club’s license to operate. But even as that case was starting its labyrinthine trip through the Cook County Courts, a new opponent appeared on the horizon.
Backers of a new club, to be located next door to Allure, have been quietly soliciting financial backers. The club, a Penthouse Magazine-themed “Caligula Club”, promised 17,000 square feet of “luxuries and decadence”. That would mean three adult venues along Lake Street (the third is a strip club called “Scores” at Mannheim and Lake) in Stone Park, near the convent and a cluster of homes.
And the sisters, cried foul.
“Families live here. Children live here. We live here!” said sister Neomia. “They don’t see the damage they’re doing.”
Attorney Thomas Brejcha, of the Thomas More Society, which filed the first suit on behalf of the nuns, said he was ready to add the Caligula club to his existing complaint.
“Obviously something here is in the works,” said Brejcha. “There are plans. And there are predictions and there are solicitations going on. I think that’s enough for us to consider suing them!”
Noa-Noa’s owner Perry Orr, initially told the BGA the adult concept for the site was not “set in stone,” just one idea for the property.
But it now appears Caligula may have been stopped dead in its tracks. Not by the courts, or even by divine intervention. In this case, the obstacle was a little more secular.
“It is dead,” Orr told NBC 5 on Monday. “The deadline date is July 31st. Today is the 28th. So unless you get a couple of million, it’s not going to happen.”
Orr says his solicitation for investors simply didn’t draw the response he needed to proceed.
“It never got off the ground, I’m sorry to say,” he said. “We tried something and it didn’t work. Never collected one dollar. It was just a wild idea that never materialized.”
Instead, Orr says he will remodel his existing Noa-Noa Club, a longtime music venue, which Caligula was to occupy.
“I would’ve put up a sign saying, ‘Hey, coming, Caligula!’ if it was going to be something. But that didn’t happen!”
For now, it appears the nuns may not have another club in their back yard. But their fight is far from over. Not only is the litigation on their suit just beginning, but the Stone Park “entertainment district”, located adjacent to their property, still has room for one more establishment.
Ironically, attorney Dean Krone, who represents the Village, says Orr had the proper adult entertainment license and could have opened Caligula without city interference.
“There’s no way the village could deny it if they wanted,” Krone said. And, he noted, if another club comes along which meets the proper requirements of the district, the zoning is there and a license would likely be granted.
The nuns rest their legal arguments on a state statute which says such clubs cannot open within a thousand feet of a school or place of worship. But Stone Park contends the law is unconstitutional, because stripping is protected speech, and there is no location in their community which satisfies the thousand foot buffer.
Asked about any future plans to revisit his Caligua concept, Orr was fairly emphatic.
“At the present, none whatsoever, he said. And he strongly suggested that at least as far as his business interests were concerned, the Sisters of St. Charles had no worries.
“My family members are Catholic,” he said. “Can you imagine me starting a war with some nuns? God help me!”