SAUGET, Il. (KMOX)-While he agrees the money would go to a good cause, helping rape crisis centers and violence prevention, the owner of some local strip clubs says that an Illinois Senate proposal to raise funds through a strip club tax isn’t fair, and would hurt the state’s economy.
VCG Holdings President Michael Ocello tells KMOX, “I think people who have been sexually assaulted or battered, we should as a society do everything we can to help those people. I think this is an effort to try to say we’re responsible for that. I don’t believe there’s any scientific data, not anecdotal but scientific data, that links the adult nightclub industry to increased levels of rape and battery.”
Senator Toi Hutchinson’s strip club tax would charge Ocello’s clubs $5 for every customer who comes through his doors, whether they pay or not. Ocello says that would force him to close three of his five clubs and 30 of the state’s 40 other clubs would have shut their doors. He says that would cost thousands of jobs inside and outside the clubs, “1,500 jobs just within the clubs themselves, but beyond that, economists say that in the hospitality industry there’s a three to five times ripple effect. If 30 clubs go out of business the people who deliver food to those clubs are going to be impacted. The people who sell light bulbs. The people who deliver beer to those clubs. All of those have an economic impact on the communities those clubs happen to be in.”
Ocello says for many communities the clubs are key sources of revenue. For instance he says the four clubs in Brooklyn pay a $36,000 yearly licensing fee, plus sales and other taxes. He says if the clubs there, or in Washington Park or Centreville go away, so will much of those town’s budgets, and their police forces.
Ocello admits there are people who just as soon see the clubs close down, but he says, “I respect their right to that opinion but these are legal businesses. It’s my belief the government is not supposed to be in the business of legislating our individual moralities.”
He says that clubs could not afford to pass along the cost to customers, “We’re no different than any other business out there. Consumers today are struggling through the economy they’re trying to make ends meet. Some people choose to have this as part of their entertainment options and to increase prices $5 on them will cause some to people to say, ‘I’m not gonna go, I can’t afford it.'”
Ocello says the Illinois Club Owners Association is willing to meet with lawmakers to work on a compromise that fills the need to fund such programs without putting clubs out of business.
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