DuPage looking to require licenses for adult businesses

Updated 5/29/2019 6:26 PM

DuPage officials are reviewing plans to create a licensing program for the handful of adult businesses operating in the county's unincorporated areas.

An ad hoc county board committee has spent months gathering testimony and other information about the secondary effects of adult businesses and eventually will recommend regulations aimed at reducing their potential negative impact on the community.


Committee members this week started reviewing a proposed ordinance to establish an adult business license. If the program becomes a reality, adult businesses that provide "on-premises entertainment," including private viewing booths, will be required to get an annual license.

The move comes in the wake of the county's legal fight with the Hot Shots Photography Studio near Wheaton.

The county filed a lawsuit claiming the establishment along Gary Avenue is operating as an adult business at a site that violates zoning restrictions. In an agreement to end the lawsuit, Hot Shots must leave the space it leases by no later than Sept. 11.

Officials say the Hot Shots case underscores why DuPage needs a licensing a program.

By law, DuPage can't ban adult businesses because it lacks home-rule power, but it can restrict where they are located.

Under existing zoning rules, such businesses only are allowed in industrial districts. They also must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, day care centers, religious institutions, cemeteries, residences and recreational areas.

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But in the case of Hot Shots, officials had difficulty determining what type of business it was, in part, because there's no exterior sign. It has darkened windows and neon signs that read "ATM" and "Open 24 Hours."

Officials say a licensing program would make it easier to identify an adult business.

"If we had complaints, we could go in there," said county board member Julie Renehan, who serves as chairwoman of the ad hoc panel. "The police could go in there. There's a number of ways that basically unlocks the door for us to go in there and determine if this is a legal business."

Once an adult business gets a license, it would have to follow certain regulations.

For example, it would have to be inspected each year by county building, zoning and health officials. In addition, the sheriff's office would identify and fingerprint everyone who works in the business, including managers and security personnel.

"We've heard a lot about sex trafficking," said Renehan, a Hinsdale Democrat. "This requires a photo for identification so we know who's working in there and can better protect individuals."


License holders also would be required to make viewing booths handicapped accessible and have their employees take a class about human trafficking.

After Hot Shots closes, only two adult businesses will remain in unincorporated DuPage -- Zebulon Adult Boutique and another establishment, which both are near Roselle.

While county officials work on a licensing ordinance, state lawmakers last week approved a measure that would allow DuPage to adopt local rules to provide for improved oversight.

The legislation, which must be signed by the governor to become law, would allow non-home rule counties with populations of at least 900,000 to impose "reasonable regulations" on adult uses in unincorporated areas.

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