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Targeted West Chicago strip club owner says his place safe
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/30/2008 1:58 PM | Updated: 9/30/2008 2:01 PM

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The West Chicago strip club owner targeted by DuPage County's crackdown on adult businesses said his club is safe, and he's already more than strict about alcohol consumption there.

Ari Pomerantz said a proposal by county officials to forbid patrons of Diamonds Gentleman's Club from bringing their own booze into the strip club could lead to "unintended consequences."

"What I do think if you do ban BYOB is it's going to be a fact that you have a ton of people drink wherever they drink and drink excessively because they know they can't drink at Diamonds," Pomerantz said Tuesday at a special county board subcommittee meeting on adult businesses.

The subcommittee was convened to discuss the impact of adult businesses in unincorporated parts of the county on adjacent communities. The thrust of the Tuesday's discussion focused on the current practice of allowing patrons of all-nude strip clubs to bring their own liquor to those establishments.

Current county law does not allow clubs that feature nude dancers to sell alcohol. However, a loophole allows these clubs to let their patrons bring their own booze while providing mixers like soda, water or juice. The subcommittee is considering closing that loophole. Diamonds is the only business that would be affected by such a change.

Pomerantz said he trains his staff to spot inebriated patrons, and the club has a policy that prevents patrons from bringing large quantities of alcohol into the club.

"It's almost impossible to overdrink at Diamonds," Pomerantz said. "Many customers are angered by how intrusive we are, and some don't come back."

Subcommittee Chairman Jim Zay asked if Pomerantz would allow him to bring a standard 750 milliliter bottle of vodka into the club to share with a friend. Pomerantz said he wouldn't be allowed in with that much alcohol for only two people. But Zay said he'd recently done just that to test the club's policies.

"I have been there and you let me in," he said.

Several representatives from area municipalities supported more regulation of adult businesses in the county, saying such businesses lower surrounding property values, create higher crime rates and exhaust city resources.

Pomerantz was the lone adult business owner to testify at Tuesday's hearing.

The subcommittee will meet again in the next few weeks and possibly start drafting an ordinance that would close the loophole or modify the law to require alcohol-service training for employees or additional insurance coverage related to alcohol service.

Zay said he began to pursue changing the law after reading about the connection between Pomerantz's club and two fatal car crashes and a murder nearby.

Pomerantz said the club's connection to those incidents has been distorted by lawyers and the media. Pomerantz said his club had no connection to the murder except that the man accused of killing a pizza driver lived across the street from the club and simply used a valet driver's phone to order the pizza, but had not been in the club that night.

In 2005, Shelley Dogra crashed his car in West Chicago and killed three passengers after spending time at Diamonds. Pomerantz said the four had been drinking all day at a family function and spent only 15 minutes at his club where videotape shows they drank nothing and did not appear drunk when they left.

A few months later, John Homatas crashed the car he was driving into another car driven by a woman who was eight months pregnant. The woman and her fetus were killed as was a passenger in Homatas' car. Homatas and the passenger, John Chiarello, had been at Diamonds before the crash.

Pomerantz said in that case Homatas had tested positive for drugs and alcohol after the crash. When Homatas was removed from the club that night, Diamonds employees were under the impression Chiarello would be driving Homatas home. In the wake of that incident Pomerantz said the club began giving drivers different colored bracelets to help staff better determine whether the drivers should be given their keys or if a cab should be called.

Pomerantz said banning liquor at his club would put "hundreds of John Homatases on the road."

Officials from the DuPage County Sheriff's office said Diamonds was not a problem enforcement spot and the owners have cooperated with investigations and sting operations at the business in the past.