Attorney says adult business faces 'official hostility' in DuPage

 
 

An adult business that has operated for more than four decades in unincorporated DuPage believes it's facing "official hostility and an apparent existential threat" from the county, which is exploring ways to regulate it and similar establishments.

Since January, a DuPage County Board committee has listened to testimony from residents, school officials, social service providers, health officials and law enforcement officers about the "negative secondary effects" of adult businesses.

Before recommending regulations aimed at reducing those effects, the committee asked to hear from the owners, managers and employees of adult businesses operating in unincorporated areas.

On Tuesday, the panel heard from an attorney representing Zebulon Enterprises, Inc., which operates an adult business along Lake Street near Roselle.

Attorney Clyde DeWitt spent nearly an hour addressing the committee. He also submitted 12 pages of written testimony he prepared with input from his client.

In the document, DeWitt questioned the county's motives for examining adult businesses.

County board Chairman Dan Cronin created the ad hoc committee in December after he and other elected officials received numerous complaints about adult businesses.

But DeWitt said Cronin made a remark during the announcement that concerns Zebulon's owners.

"It (Zebulon) now faces official hostility and an apparent existential threat from the county's announced intention 'to get these businesses out of our community,'" DeWitt wrote.

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He said Cronin's statement "is a smoking gun of the county's censorial intent to violate the First Amendment."

But county board members serving on the committee challenged DeWitt's statement that the hearings "are largely theater intended to reach a preordained result."

"You are claiming that we have a preordained result," county board member Tim Elliott, a Glen Ellyn Republican, said to DeWitt. "If that was the case, I'd like to have known about it. Because I don't know what it is."

County board member Julie Renehan, a Hinsdale Democrat who heads the committee, stressed that the panel is looking at all sides of the issue.

"In fact, that's why we held everything open for a month -- to hear from you," she told DeWitt.

In addition to Zebulon, county officials hoped to hear from Hot Shots Photography Studio near Wheaton and a third establishment near Roselle. But representatives of those businesses never testified.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The next step for the committee is to review a proposed ordinance. The panel is expected to deliberate on May 28.

It's been a year since residents started raising concerns about several businesses, including Hot Shots.

The list of options the committee will consider includes creating an adult business license, implementing a licensing program for all businesses and requiring an occupancy permit any time a nonresidential building changes ownership or gets a new tenant.

Officials say June is the soonest the full county board can consider a recommendation.

Meanwhile, the state's attorney's office is suing Hot Shots. The lawsuit claims Hot Shots is an adult business, not a photography studio, and shouldn't be allowed to operate at its current location.

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