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End in Sight for City Hall Battle With Strip Club?

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 18, 2011 2:09PM

2011_7_18_vips.jpg The Sun-Times does a good job of encapsulating the nearly 20-year legal fight between City Hall and the owners of the city's "only full liquor and topless bar," in the process showing how dragging out the battle on appeals has been very lucrative for the club's owners.

VIP's A Gentlemen's Club (link decidedly NSFW) has been on the losing end of its 18-year battle with the city ever since a 1993 bust by undercover police found “dancers at times wore thongs that exposed their buttocks and wore latex . . . that exposed portions of their breasts.” The city has been trying to close the club ever since for showing too much T&A.

Yes, we know strip clubs aren't in the business of keeping the puppies on leashes, but city ordinance prohibits nude or semi-nude dancing at establishments with liquor licenses, which Pooh Bah, Inc. (the company that owns VIP's) has argued is unconstitutional. Pooh Bah owner Perry Mandera's attorneys have even argued that they're operating within the letter of the law, since his dancers wear thongs and cover nipples and areolas.

As the legal battle has dragged on, stays in the rulings have allowed VIP's to remain open and rake in the profits. VIP's says it pays about $480,000 a year in city and state taxes, Mandera clears about $75,000 a month in salary and the dancers earn six figures. Mandera's also shared the wealth with politicians. Over the years his companies have given $235,000 in campaign contributions, with 33rd Ward Ald. Dick Mell being the recipient of much of Mandera's generosity.

Mandera's hoping that a new mayor at City Hall may bring about a new relationship between the city and his club. But the city, in an Appellate Court filing, said that Mandera "flouted" the law for more than a decade and got rich in the process. "Among other problems, as Pooh Bah no doubt realizes, it could have avoided any violation with minimal expense by putting a bit more clothing on its dancers, as it purportedly started doing in 2006. Alternatively, it could have refrained from the sale of alcohol."