Strip club owner: city can't afford legal battle

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Terry Snell

METROPOLIS, Ill. — Depleted funds and frustrated voters collided at a local city council meeting Monday, a meeting with far-reaching consequences.

The Metropolis city council approved its new budget, which leaves out the almost $19,000 per month gift to Massac County.

It's money the county said it desperately needs and money some residents said could be saved if the city weren't in a costly legal battle with a strip club.

The same night the city was set to vote on its budget, the owner of the Metro Pony strip club, Californian Jerry Westlund, showed up in Metropolis for the first time.

He urged council members to make changes to what he called a business-killing adult use ordinance and said if the city did, he'd drop a court case he has against the city because of this ordinance.

He tried to draw parallels between the current court case, the money spent on it, and the budget issues.

It's a connection many residents seem to have made themselves.

 

"Wish we weren't in litigation," Westlund said. "I don't want to be in litigation."

Westlund's appearance and appeal appeared to catch council members off guard. He said he came to urge the city to change the ordinance and settle out of court.

"I have offered to settle since I first started," he said. "I'm still hoping to. I hope clear heads prevail. We can sit down at the table and make something work."

City resident Willy Cavett spoke passionately about settling with Westlund.

"He made you an offer you can't refuse to take," Cavett said at the meeting.

Cavett was perhaps a little too passionate. His foul language almost got him kicked out of city hall.

"At the end of it, you will say you f---ed up," he said. "Ain' t no nice way to say it."

While the Metro Pony wasn't on the agenda Monday, council members did decide to pass the new budget, which excludes the monthly county gift.

But the vote was far from unanimous.

Westlund hopes the next decision this council makes is to talk to him.

"Everybody has my number," he said. "The lawyers all have phone numbers. Anything I can do to put this behind us and move forward with the best interests of the taxpayers of Metropolis, consider me a partner in that."

 

Those $19,000 monthly payments to the county stop as of the end of the fiscal year, which is Oct. 17. However, the city could amend the decision to add some of that money back up until then.

This decision comes from Harrah's revenues dropping some 40 percent over the past few years.

The city received a bill up to July from the attorney who represents them against the strip club. The running total on that bill is $77,000.

However, the city said the attorney has agreed to work pro bono once it hits the $100,000 mark.

 

 

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