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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Strip club next to convent

Strip club next to convent

Strip club next to convent Strip club next to convent? A group of nuns is outraged that a $3 million strip club is set to open next door to their convent  The nuns claim they were told the building was going to be a restaurant . The club's owner says he's already taken steps to make sure the convent isn't disturbed

Chicago - A massive, multi-million dollar strip club is set to open right next to a convent in the western suburbs. The nuns said they didn't find out until it was too late.

The sisters of St. Charles Borromeo gave FOX Chicago News and the Better Government Association a tour of their convent in Melrose Park.

There’s a new stop on the tour, one that Sister Marissonia Daltoe isn’t happy about. The tour includes the residence for elderly nuns, the house for new sisters and their prized garden.

“It's not safe, first of all,” Daltoe said. “Secondly, it can be noisy, at times.”

Right on the other side of the fence surrounding their vegetable garden, just over the border in Stone Park, a strip club is being built next to a convent.

“They tell us it's a restaurant,” Daltoe said. “But officially we receive the news it's a gentlemen's cabaret.”

“We are religious. We espouse certain beliefs,” Daltoe continued. “As Catholic religious we take vows, and we have something like this totally opposite going on."Club owner Bob Itzkow describes the $3 million, 18,000 square foot facility he's building as a cabaret with nudity, like Lido in Paris, featuring hi-tech 3d projections and a top shelf restaurant.

"It's entertainment for mature audiences," Itzkow said, denying the fact that it is a strip club.

He also said they have sound-proofed the building and focused the lighting so the nuns and other neighbors won't even know what's there.

"We've taken great care to make sure we don't disturb our neighbors,” Itzkow said. “It's a privilege to be here."

Stone Park mayor Ben Mazzulla and village trustees said they tried to stop the club, voting against it twice.

“It was something these individuals applied for, fought for zoning change, and something we were strongly against,” Mazzulla said. “[We] voted no, because there was a convent there. It's a religious order.”

"Morally, this Board didn't like this idea,” one trustee said, “because of the nuns."

But Itzkow sued, saying the zoning allows it, and a judge allowed it to open. Village officials said they had no choice.

"It would have been a drawn out battle, Mazzulla said. “It would have cost the village over a half million in tax dollars."

But the nuns said they didn't even know about the strip club until after the building went up. So last March they wrote a letter to the village, asking why they never received notice of any public hearings.

The village's attorneys responded the nuns had indeed been notified by certified mail. The nuns said they never received that letter.

“We have never seen it,” Daltoe said.

That's because the certified letter telling the nuns about the public hearing was sent to 1414 Lake Street. That address is actually for an insurance agency.

The convent is at 1414 37th Street. So the nuns never got notice.

“Personally, I believe they never gave it to us because they knew they were going to have a negative response to it,” Daltoe said.

The BGA’s Robert Herguth said if the village really wanted to stop the club from opening, it could have done a better job of notifying the public.

"It's a matter of blocks in any direction,” Herguth said. “They could have walked from village hall, kocked on the door like we did and talked to them."

Now it's too late. The club is opening this spring, and the nuns and their unlikely neighbors will have to learn to get along.

"We did get a dialogue going with them and I think that they see we do good things for the community,” Itzkow said.

When asked if she believed the club’s owner when he said the business would not be an inconvenience, Sister Daltoe said she did not trust that claim very much.

“I have to see it to believe,” Daltoe said.

Melrose Park mayor Ron Serpico said via a spokesman that he is "shocked and sickened" by the situation, and will do all he can to prevent the strip club from opening.

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