We wouldn’t be surprised if a copy of the village’s new regulations on strip clubs, escort agencies and other explicit businesses winds up getting tucked under a few mattresses in teenage bedrooms. The details that lawyers and public officials are forced to hammer out in crafting any set of rules makes for scintillating, if not scandalizing reading, in this case.
But if we can set aside for a moment what makes this ordinance sexy and delve into the mundane task of setting good public policy, residents should be pleased with the work that’s been done.
The zoning regulations put in place by the village council Monday fit a complicated set of restrictions and limitations already established by state and federal law. Making sure that what goes on the books locally doesn’t clash with these precedents is no easy task and village staff should be commended for their thoughtful approach to this challenge.
In Illinois, state lawmakers have decided that various sex shops can’t be within one mile of a school, church, park or other venue deemed worthy of this protection. This decree practically rules out Forest Park as a host community and the village could have easily rested on Springfield’s decision.
But federal protections prohibit communities from putting an outright ban on the smut business, and rightfully so. Whether it’s tasteful or obscene, adults have a constitutional right to the messages and images of this industry. It’s called the First Amendment.
So, leaning on a pile of case law and social studies, Forest Park has set aside roughly 5 percent of its total acreage for use by sexually explicit businesses. At least 500 feet must separate these establishments from schools, parks and churches. To further combat the use of illicit drugs or other nuisances that habitually plague the industry, an early curfew of 11 p.m. will be imposed and individual employees must register with the village.
Further, topless dancers wouldn’t be allowed to collect tips from their customers. This language alone would seem to be enough to discourage any potential club from setting up shop here, since gratuities traditionally provide the bulk of a dancer’s income. If your employees can’t make money it’s going to be tough to staff your outfit.
These regulations are tough. There is no mixed message here and the solidarity with which public officials have embraced this message is encouraging. Perhaps if the village had taken up this issue during an economic downturn or when storefronts across town were sitting vacant there would be a greater inkling to welcome this industry, any industry. That the staff and elected officials have unequivocally stated their opposition to such blight says that they hold the community and its future in high regard.
A page 9 story in the Nov. 21 issue incorrectly reported that a local ordinance dictates the mayor must also hold the title of liquor commissioner. That responsibility is assigned to the mayor by state law. This error was repeated in an editorial printed on the same date.