Monday, February 24, 2003

Nightclub draws controversy

Bikini dancing nights resulted in complaints

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - A new nightclub is stirring controversy with bikini nights and lingerie shows.

Particularly upset is a resident who lives only a mile away - Phil Burress, president of the anti-pornography group Citizens for Community Values.

Illusions Night Club, inside the Knights Inn motel just off Interstate 75 on Cincinnati-Dayton Road, held shows Jan. 31 with male and female dancers in bikini bathing suits, according to West Chester police and the club's owner.

The shows were advertised in a newspaper as a "Valentine Lingerie Preview" and "Men of Extasy Male Review".

The dancers took tips from patrons, owner Jim Bowen confirmed Friday.

But he said the shows won't be part of the club's regular offerings and were just held to boost clientele, which has been poor since the club with a sports bar opened three months ago.

"It was not meant to be a strip show. We might do it every couple of months, but I really don't want to run that kind of a nightclub anyway," Bowen said.

West Chester leaders say there's not much they can do to stop the dancing - at least not until the township finishes updating its zoning code for sexually oriented businesses.

While the acts do not violate West Chester's zoning code, officials are taking steps to tighten that code to regulate "semi-nude" cabarets. The township's adult cabaret ordinance regulates only nude cabarets. However, it's unclear how dancers in bikinis could be classified as semi-nude even if the code is changed.

"If people want to dance around in their underwear, that's not against the law - as long as they keep it on," Administrator Dave Gully said.

But CCV leaders are upset - and Burress says the group already has reported the Knights Inn to the West Chester Township Police Department and the Butler County Prosecutor's Office for allegedly renting "pornographic" videos to customers.

Brian Kalyan, a Knights Inn manager, said none of the videos are pornographic and most are rated R. Butler County and West Chester authorities said Friday they were unaware of complaints.

Cincinnati-Dayton Road near Interstate 75 is one of the few places in the township where sexually oriented businesses are permitted to operate.

"People have a constitutional right to make idiots of themselves but we do want to insure our code is as tight as we are reasonably allowed to make it," Trustee Catherine Stoker said. "Illusions is being kind of silly but we are keeping an eye on them. There's no need to panic."

But Burress says the township is lax and the zoning code updates should be complete.

The club occupies the site of a former nightspot called Escapades that closed in 1996 after a brief but troubled run.


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