Strip Club Bedford

Strip club owner says she can class up Blackjacks

The same group that tried to buy Blackjacks Gentlemen's Club in 2013 is back for a second pitch before Kane County officials.

Debra Diaz came before the Kane County Board nearly two years ago to secure a liquor license and buy the property at 7N657 Route 31 in St. Charles Township. An 11-10 vote against her application sent Diaz looking for other business opportunities.

On Tuesday, she reappeared before the county's liquor commission with a revamped pitch.

Diaz, who operates several strip clubs in Indiana and ones in Harvey and Bedford Park, recently inked a deal to use the Thee Dollhouse brand for the Blackjacks location if her new liquor license application wins approval. She pledged to invest money in the business, upgrade its appearance and improve security.

She also suggested she'll be appealing to a more upscale clientele, by purposefully charging quite a bit more for liquor.

"The people who come in for a shot and a beer, we don't want them, " she said.

In 2013, board member John Hoscheit, who represents the area Blackjacks is in, urged the "no" vote in hopes it would force Blackjacks to fail, leading to a new owner taking over and running a different type of business.

That hasn't happened. Diaz said owners Dominic and Anthony Buttitta still net about $1 million in profit from the business, even while they were running it from prison without a liquor license. The Buttittas just finished serving out prison sentences for tax evasion and illegal gambling convictions.

Diaz said her personal track record is clear.

"I've been in this business for over 30 years, " she told the liquor commission. "I know that there's people opposed to this type of business, but it is a legal business. And I run it as a business. We don't break the laws. The Buttittas just got out of prison. You have that stigma associated with that business. I think getting rid of that is a good thing."

Commissioners focused their questions on two issues - how Diaz's security would work and how much revenue her business could generate for county coffers.

Diaz said her plan would add about 16 more security cameras, creating a total of 32. She also said she'll employ a minimum of five people for security. Most nights, Blackjacks has one or two bouncers, Diaz said. She didn't have a full breakdown of what the county would reap in trade for the liquor license. She pledged $250, 000 worth of renovations on the interior and exterior of the business. She also predicted quadrupling the profit margins via sales and doubling the number of dancers to a total of about 80 women.

At its pinnacle, Diaz said Blackjacks paid about $127, 000 in state and local taxes. Right now it pays about $7, 000 a year, she said.

Commissioners asked Diaz to bring more detail about tax and fee revenue to the full county board April 14. That's when board members will vote again on Diaz's application.

There are at least seven votes in play. Four board members have left the board since the last vote. Three additional county board members were absent.

Also on Tuesday, liquor commission attorney Pat Kinnally said the vote must focus solely on the liquor license - not on any beef with the current zoning allowing for a strip club.

"We don't want to marry the zoning with the liquor license application, " Kinnally said. "The use issue is not before us. That's an important distinction."

Diaz also reminded commissioners she has a track record of putting up a fight if she believes her rights are being violated. She told the liquor commission she spent more than nine years in court with the state, Cook County and Bedford Park fighting for the right to operate there.


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