With the current owners of Blackjacks Gentlemen's Club near Elgin now sitting in prison, the would-be buyers of the establishment are hoping the idea of convicted felons still profiting from fully nude 18-year-olds has enough of a yuck factor to get Kane County officials to facilitate their purchase.
Debra Diaz and Seif El Sharif, operating as DD&SS Inc., want to purchase the club only if they can get a liquor license from Kane County. The club has no liquor license, which allows the establishment to employ fully nude dancers and permit entry to clientele younger than 21.
With a liquor license, DD&SS Inc. would still operate the business as a strip club, but girls would be only partially nude and all entering the club would need to be 21 or older.
County board members rejected a liquor license application in April by an 11-10 vote (with three members absent), citing a desire to see a different kind of business operate at the location.
No other buyers have come forward, and current owners Dominic and Anthony Buttitta are serving 18- and 30-month sentences, respectively, on tax evasion and illegal gambling convictions. They've also been ordered to pay $1.7 million in taxes on $3.7 million in profits they collected from "house fees" charged to the dancers.
County board Chairman Chris Lauzen also acts as the county's chief liquor commissioner. He said the reapplication of DD&SS Inc. deserves new consideration given the new circumstances.
"The problem is we could have convicted felons running a business from a federal penitentiary," Lauzen said. "That is something we need to consider."
But the county board's liquor commission chose not to weigh in on the application. Instead, they passed it on to the county board's Executive Committee with no recommendation on how to proceed. That left board members a little bit in the dark about what to do.
County board member Melisa Taylor serves on the liquor commission and said she didn't feel she could give a thumbs-up or -down on the application without hearing from John Hoscheit. The club operates in Hoscheit's district. He voted against DD&SS Inc.'s application in April.
"Them being in prison definitely made me think twice," Taylor said. "What has changed will maybe change what your vote was."
But Hoscheit said he wants to review the application and the meeting minutes from the liquor commission before deciding if he'll change his mind.
The Buttittas were convicted and sentenced last fall, before DD&SS Inc.'s first application. Lauzen said there are additional new factors to consider beyond the Buttittas being in prison, but he did not elaborate.
The committee agreed to wait 30 more days before voting on the license application. If a sale were to go through, all proceeds will go toward paying off the $1.7 million tax restitution.
DD&SS Inc. has predicted the creation of 250 jobs, many of them dancing positions, if they buy the club.