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Chicago’s Topless Bar Ban Challenged In Court By Transgender Performer

The lawsuit wants equal rights for all body types

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Chicago's topless bar ban that clubs like VIP'S have challenged is back in the news.
Chicago's topless bar ban that clubs like VIP'S have challenged is back in the news.
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Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

A new federal lawsuit uses a new angle to indirectly attack the city of Chicago’s ban on female nudity at bars, strip clubs and other venues that serve alcoholic drinks. Transgender woman performer Bea Sullivan-Knoff filed the lawsuit on Wednesday against the city, calling the restrictions sexist and transphobic. She noted male performers can dance bare chested without reservation and that performers of all body types—no matter how they identify— should have the same privileges.

Sullivan-Knoff, 23, is a poet and performance artist and said she can’t perform her full act at venues because of the law, which she says needs to be abolished for equality’s sake. She and her attorney spoke about the lawsuit at a Wednesday news conference.

Strip clubs, like VIP’S Gentlemen's Club near Lincoln Park, have challenged the city’s law, claiming it’s antiquated and prevents them from making as much money. The law prevents female strippers from showing bare breasts at venues that serve alcoholic beverages. Many clubs get around the law by having their exotic dancers wear clear pasties over their nipples. BYO strip clubs without liquor licenses are allowed full nudity.

Before a mysterious flip-flop in April, one alderman claimed that the law handcuffed Chicago’s tourism industry, preventing it from competing with other cities that offer no such restrictions. Days later, she dropped her opposition.

See the full lawsuit below.

Sullivan-Knoff Lawsuit

VIP'S Gentleman's Club

1531 N Kingsbury St, Chicago, IL 60642 (312) 664-7400 Visit Website