Cook County Record

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Stone Park adult video store challenges constitutionality of village licensing fees, new tax

Federal Court

By Karen Kidd | Jul 22, 2019


| vosp.us

CHICAGO — A Stone Park adult book and video store, with questionable past connections, has filed suit against the village government, challenging the village's ability to impose new licensing fees and a tax based on the number of customers who visit the establishment.

Plaintiff Galaxy Books and Video alleges the village is violating its First Amendment constitutional rights, according to the shop's 11-page complaint filed July 9 in U.S. District Court for Illinois' Northern District. The shop argues the village has been in a "rush to censor [the] plaintiff and to mute its speech," and has prevented Galaxy from operating in Stone Park via an ordinance that imposing a steep licensing fee, according to the lawsuit.

The ordinance also imposes a tax on every customer who enters Galaxy Books and Video, according to the lawsuit.

"Specifically, [the] plaintiff seeks to have this court declare as unconstitutional, both on its face and as applied, and to enjoin certain provisions of the code of ordinances of the village of Stone Park pertaining to the application of fees and taxes imposed against plaintiff by reason of its classification as an 'adult' business as described more particularly below," the lawsuit said. "In short, the defendant has targeted plaintiff's First Amendment protected business by taking actions specifically designed to preclude plaintiff from operating its desired establishment."

Galaxy, on North Mannheim Road in Stone Park, has a notorious - if somewhat remote - history in Stone Park. About 20 years ago, then-Stone Park Mayor Robert Natale was charged with accepting bribes to ignore mob-related gambling and other activity in the area. In early 2002 Natale was sentenced to 18 months in prison for accepting more than $35,000 in bribes from Chicago-area mobsters to, among other things, ease the opening of Galaxy.

Natale has since collected a taxpayer-supported pension and Galaxy Books & Video and the boutique store that sells "adult toys" and pornography has been operating in the village ever since. 

Galaxy is challenging a Stone Park ordinance that levies a $12,500 licensing fee on the store and a $1.75 per-customer tax on adult establishments in the village, according to the lawsuit.  

"[The] defendant has increased the license fee disproportionately, far outpacing the rate of inflation, increasing it from $2,000 in 2004, to $5,000 in 2008, to $10,000 in 2010, and finally to $12,500 in 2011, to the administering of the village's licensing provisions and constitutes an unconstitutional tax on plaintiff's First Amendment freedoms," the suit alleges.

Galaxy has been harmed by the ordinance "because plaintiff has been required to pay the exponentially increasing license fee since 2004 to participate in [constitutionally] protected communication and must continue to do so to continue to engage in protected communication," the lawsuit said.

The village has agreed to not collect the tax or impose the licensing fee while the lawsuit is pending, according to a stipulated order filed with the lawsuit.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Robert W Gettleman. 

Galaxy Books & Video is represented by attorney Patrick J. Mackey of Buffalo.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Case No. 19-cv-04614

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U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division Village of Stone Park

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