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By Robert McKoppin, Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — A group of nuns is suing to shut down a strip club next to their convent in Stone Park, Ill., that the sisters say keeps them awake at night.

The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians say in the suit that Club Allure has ruined their peace with blinking neon lights and loud thumping music. The nuns say they have witnessed drunken fights and found condoms littering the area.

The suit, filed against the club and the village of Stone Park, states that the club violates a state law against operating adult entertainment within 1,000 feet of a school or place of worship. The club is also near houses, and three neighbors have joined the suit.

“I think most people would find that offensive, to put a strip club next to a home for sisters,” said Peter Breen, attorney for the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit law firm that filed the suit on behalf of the nuns.

The suit was filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court. The club opened last fall, but attorneys said the nuns were not properly notified.

Dean Krone, an attorney for the village of Stone Park, said the state law is unconstitutional because it is overly broad by prohibiting such uses within one mile of houses of worship.

That would eliminate any site in the tiny village from hosting a strip club, but under the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of expression, Krone said, the courts have generally ruled that municipalities may not put blanket bans on strip clubs.

The fight over the club has been raging for years. Village Board members initially denied a strip club proposed by the same ownership in 2009, Krone said, but when the owners sued, the village settled the suit by allowing the club.

The suit is more about moral views than lights or noise, according to Robert Itzkow, who said he used to be the club’s owner and is now its attorney.

“This is an ideological dispute,” he said.

The club is soundproofed and keeps lighting and deliveries in the front to avoid bothering neighbors, he said. The club is next to a container yard and a recycling dump, in an area zoned for adult entertainment and in a village known for strip clubs.

Itzkow said the business improved the area by replacing vacant warehouses and generating jobs and tax revenue.

Club Allure’s website advertises it as “Chicago’s Premier Adult Playground.”

Part of the convent is in the neighboring village of Melrose Park, also a plaintiff in the suit. The convent is home to about 20 women, Breen said, and includes three chapels and holds Sunday services open to the public.

Photo: James C. Svehla via Chicago Tribune/MCT
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