Elk Grove Village buys Heavenly Bodies and neighboring properties for $6.15 million

For two decades, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson had a gentlemen’s agreement with the owner of gentlemen’s club Heavenly Bodies: Take my community’s name out of your radio commercials, and I won’t annex you into town.

“They kept running the commercials: ‘Heavenly Bodies, Heavenly Bodies, Elk Grove Village, Elk Grove Village.’ They weren’t in Elk Grove Village,” the longtime mayor said Wednesday.

Now, not only will the long-standing strip club on the southwest corner of Higgins and Elmhurst roads soon be annexed into the village, but Johnson will get the keys to the front door.

Village board members agreed this week to pay $6.15 million for five separate parcels totaling 2.77 acres on the corner, including Heavenly Bodies, a shuttered Burger King restaurant and Marathon gas station, and parking lots.

Despite some gentle ribbing on the village board dais Tuesday night, Johnson and village officials won’t be running the show. The club, which opened in 1989, is expected to have its last dance shortly before the scheduled June 17 closing on the sale.

“No, the village will not be running Heavenly Bodies,” Johnson said. “After we close, then it will be closing down also.”

Owner Michael Wellek, who died just weeks ago, had been in talks with village officials for months about a potential purchase of the prime corner real estate in unincorporated Elk Grove Township. The deal was officially inked this week with a management corporation and trust controlled by his widow.

The village has been buying and flipping properties in the area, acting as a sort of master developer to — as Johnson calls it — “drive the bus (rather) than ride the bus” when it comes to redevelopment.

“Now with the full Elmhurst interchange, that corner is the first main corner after you get off (the Jane Addams Tollway),” Johnson said. “That can and will become a prominent corner when you’re coming into the village.”

Johnson said there are no immediate plans for the property, besides tearing the buildings down. The village board will formally vote on ordinances annexing the strip club into town; the old Burger King and gas station are already within Elk Grove Village proper.

Because of that contiguity, the village long ago could have forcibly annexed Heavenly Bodies. But because the action wouldn’t have been voluntary, the strip club would have been grandfathered into the municipal zoning code and been allowed to continue operating.

Johnson said there was never a desire to do so, as the verbal agreement worked for him and Wellek. Besides changing the infamous radio ads — long a presence on local AM sports radio — Johnson got Wellek to give the police and fire departments access to the property, and clean up landscaping around the building.

“We butted heads a little bit,” Johnson said of his initial interactions with Wellek.

But after sitting down to hash out an agreement, “I’ve had a good working relationship with him for 20 years,” Johnson said. “We’re very appreciative that he was willing — and now his wife was willing — to work with us.”

Wellek wasn’t on such good terms with the federal government.

In 2003, investigators found $12 million in cash inside bags stashed away at a warehouse behind Heavenly Bodies. Federal prosecutors said it was unreported income from the Elk Grove business and two other strip clubs Wellek operated at the time in Harvey and Markham.

He pleaded guilty in 2010 to one count of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service in the collection of taxes and one count of filing a false federal income tax return, and was sentenced months later to a year in prison and six months of home confinement. He also was ordered to pay a fine of $75,000 and perform 200 hours of community service.

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