Sun-Times: Melrose Park Nuns Continue Legal Fight Against Strip Club

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Sisters Noemia Silva, left, and Alma Rosa Huerta of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borrome convent in Melrose Park during a June 2014 demonstration in front of Club Allure. | File

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 || Originally Published: Chicago Sun-Times || 1/25/16 || By Stefano Esposito

One day last month, as the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo celebrated morning mass, a young man entered the chapel.

He smelled odd. He couldn’t walk straight. He was drunk.

He told the women, dressed in habits, that he remembered going into the neighboring strip joint, Club Allure Chicago, but little else about the night before.

“He was overwhelmed and he said he didn’t have another place to come to,” recalled Sister Noemia Silva, one of the nuns at the Melrose Park convent.

In the way of nuns, the sisters took care of the man until police arrived. But for Silva and her sisters, the man’s appearance was yet another reminder of their unwelcome neighbor.

Silva and lawyers for the convent will be in a Chicago courtroom Tuesday for the latest legal chapter in their efforts to get Club Allure in Stone Park shut down. Attorneys for the club are expected to ask a judge at the Daley Center to dismiss the nuns’ lawsuit, originally filed in June 2014.

“They are more interested in the publicity angles of this than they are in the actual courtroom,” said Robert Itzkow, a lawyer for the club. “I don’t think they think they are going to win.”

The nuns and their lawyers remain defiant.

“The law is in our favor,” said Joan Mannix, a lawyer for the sisters.

In June 2014, nuns in full habits marched to the Stone Park club to publicize what they say is the club’s violation of Illinois’ zoning law, mandating a 1,000 buffer zone between adult entertainment facilities and any place of worship and school.

The nuns complain about blinding lights, screaming patrons and the infuriating “thwomp, thwomp, thwomp” of the music from inside the club.

The club’s operators have said they are good, respectful neighbors.

Lawyers for the strip club have argued that the club brings much-needed revenue for the tiny village and has transformed a “formerly blighted, unused piece of property.”

They also say that the nuns waited too long to file a complaint in opposition to the village ordinances approved in 2010 that permitted construction of the club.

Silva said she’s not sure what to expect from Tuesday’s hearing, but she is optimistic the sisters will eventually prevail.

“I hope and I pray,” she said. VFP

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