The cops don't seem to notice the smoky haze or, for that matter, the bulletin board behind the bar displaying photos of near-naked tavern employees. When one of the officers asks to speak to the bartender privately about the unpaid bar tab, she calls out to everyone: "The lieutenant wants to make out with me! I'll be right back."

A block down the street, it's much quieter in a lonely Broadway saloon that reeks of disinfectant and stale beer. The 50-year-old bartender, dressed like a Catholic high school girl in a tartan skirt and a tight T-shirt, tells us that the bar usually has a band, but tonight's act canceled last minute. When we cheekily ask how she plans to entertain us without live music, the woman lifts her shirt and responds: "Oh, I can think of a couple ways."


Historical Busts
To hear Dennis Grubaugh tell it, Alton has always been an eccentric town.

Erika Jakich, a bartender on Alton's Broadway street, will show her tattoos but not her naked breasts. "I'm the exception," she says. "I used to work in a strip club, but I've probably seen more nudity on Broadway."
Jennifer Silverberg
Erika Jakich, a bartender on Alton's Broadway street, will show her tattoos but not her naked breasts. "I'm the exception," she says. "I used to work in a strip club, but I've probably seen more nudity on Broadway."
Remains of Illinois' first prison.
Jennifer Silverberg
Remains of Illinois' first prison.

"It's pretty much a reporter's paradise here," opines the long-time city editor of the Alton Telegraph. "Rarely do we have a lack of subjects to write about — especially when it comes to the outlandish."

On one weekday last month, the lead story in the Telegraph detailed the sentencing of an Alton man who'd recently been found guilty of strangling to death a mentally disabled man and then chopping up his remains.

"We get a good amount of murders for a town our size," confirms Grubaugh. "We had another guy recently take a pickax to his father's head. Then there's the case of Paula Sims. She was the woman who claimed masked intruders broke into her home and kidnapped her baby. She would have gotten away with it if she didn't pull the same ruse three years later when she had another baby. Turns out she killed both children."

Lately, though, Grubaugh says the usual horror stories emanating from Alton have taken a back seat to the exploits of nude bartenders.

"When they busted one of the barmaids it made CNN," says Grubaugh, who doesn't quite understand the media appeal surrounding the naked bartenders. "It's nothing new around here," he says. "When I moved here in 1979 there were nude barmaids. One was even famous for supposedly mixing drinks with her breasts."

Regardless, Grubaugh used the recent arrest of a naked tavern employee to pen an editorial in the Telegraph calling for the city to crack down on the indecency. "We're all for freedom and liberty in this town, but sometimes you've got to side with what's best for the community," states Grubaugh. "I don't think anyone really wants naked barmaids marching up and down Broadway."

If only there were an easy solution to removing these dens of iniquity.

Seated at his tidy desk inside Alton's century-old city hall, Mayor Donald Sandidge points out several inherent challenges in tackling the town's nudity pandemic. "The problem is, when a bar owner finds out about this and fires the bartender, she'll just move down the street and get a job at another tavern doing the same thing," says Sandidge.

The mayor, who also serves as liquor commissioner and was once the city's police chief, says local laws also make it difficult to target topless barmaids. "The way the ordinance reads now is that it's only illegal for a woman to show her chest in a tavern," adds Sandidge. "If we start arresting women for this, it could be seen as discriminatory by the Supreme Court."

In Jersey County, sheriff deputies discovered the naked barmaid working a New Delhi tavern while making a routine check on the state smoking ban. Illinois state attorney Benjamin Goetten, who serves as Jersey County's top prosecutor, says the nude bartender was obeying the law when it came to smoking. "She was outside having a cigarette in the nude," says Goetten. "So she was following the law in that respect."

Similar barroom sweeps are less common in Alton. "Our police just don't have the manpower to send officers into bars to see if people are smoking or not," notes Sandidge.

As for the slot machines in Alton taverns, the mayor says he tried to get rid of them during his tenure as police chief. "A judge ruled that they were legal so long as they were only for entertainment," he says. "Later on, I sent undercover officers into bars to see if the games were paying out. My guys couldn't win anything. The way they got those machines rigged, if people are winning money on them, it isn't much."

Nowadays, anyway, Sandidge has bigger gambling concerns than the nickels and dimes won and lost in Alton taverns. Revenue at the Argosy Casino, located along the riverbank downtown, plummeted 31 percent this year, a gaping loss in gaming tax revenue that threatens to put a serious crimp on city spending. Alton depends on the casino for approximately one-fifth of its $28 million operating budget.

"That casino has done great things for this town," says Sandidge. "Unfortunately, its business is getting hurt by the economy. People just don't have as much money to spend anymore."

In 1991, when Alton became the first city in Illinois to get a casino, riverboat gambling was seen as a necessary evil to jump-start the town's beleaguered economy. Nearly two decades later, much of Alton's historic downtown remains littered as ever with collapsing and vacant buildings. Much of the town's riverfront, once home to bustling factories and mills, also sits barren and abandoned.

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15 comments
Roswell2012
Roswell2012

Nothing wrong with a little T&A as long as the ladies aren't being harassed or forced to reveal anything they don't want to. Sounds like they don't have a problem with it and even enjoy the attention and extra tips they get from flashing. The people with the seriously conservative viewpoints that are bothered by it need to stop trying to force their views on other people. That shit really pissed me off. If you don't want to see it, don't go there, plain and simple.

givemedirections
givemedirections

I totally agree with Number 6. If they dont want to show them, they dont have to. Its a good thing when they do. If people dont like it they should go to a differant night club, go to Tonys with its pretend to be upidity crowd. They all just want to sleep with each other. Praise to all those barmaids.hope they make as much money as they can, as I do to anyone that is willing to work and not take from the system

Steve Evans
Steve Evans

Flashing Boobies for Tips in Alton has been a custom for many years. In the 80's there was a VERY chesty Bar Maid at the Pub Room who would undo buttons on her vest. When the Tips were rollin in, she took the vest off. When the tips slowed down, she put the vest back on. It took a considerable amount of $ in the jar to get the vest off a second time. Quite a racket!

Gump
Gump

This is for Kellee Baker, the girl in the "Alton Confidential" picture. You need to get a job bartending in Alton! You could make some good money and you would raise the quality of barmaid to the next level! HubaHuba!

Alby
Alby

Hehehehe. This article cracks me up! I am a fairly new transplant to Alton, and this hits the nail right on the head. The naked bar tenders should be the last issue the city fathers should worry about. Lack of jobs and industry, an aging housing stock, slumlords, rampant drug and crime problems, and diminishing city revenues are all major problems that need to be tackled first. The casino was merely a crutch for so many years; never really improving Alton; just helping it squeak by. Alton has it's bright spots and some good people, but if something isn't done to change the demographics, it will be a magnet for criminals and bums. Alton is a true case of urban decay. Many of the decent people who want to live a clean life have fled for greener pastures. Free the BOOBIES and fix whats really wrong with Alton!

Bradfordshort
Bradfordshort

I live in Alton and have heard people complaining about this article. Especially some of the politcals and wanna be big shots. When I was done with the article I was in total agreement with it. The people over here can bitch all they want. But they are bitching about the truth. If the people of Alton don't like what the article says then change it. The writer had the town drunk driving him around trying to show how great Alton is.

troy
troy

Yep,thats my old hometown.The police play cops and robbers.Its a joke.Alton has a huge drug problem.Everything is cheap.Including the value or quality of life.The prostitutes,drugs,felons,lingerie shops,payday loans,pawn shops,gambling.I have a son to raise.I moved and never looked back.Even the cops dont have to live there.Wake up somebody!!

Ben There
Ben There

No, Jamie instigated Jamie's nudity. Sweet girl, but she was one of those girls that liked to show off. The only reason she was arrested was because she kept walking outside naked, and someone would call the po-po.

above the law
above the law

I only wish the author of this story would have interviewed Jamie the Alton Barmaid who was fired for nudity. He could have asked her who the main instigator was to her nudity and this story would be as big as the Blago story.

Ben There
Ben There

Sorry MK, but you're wrong about most of what you wrote. Nobody barks at them, especially the owners. Most of the time, nothing gets shown until the owner leaves. If they don't want to show anything, they just say no. Not that bigga deal. And on a good day, they make a LOT more than a few measly bucks. They don't generally stay very long anyway. It's just place to make a few bucks til they find something better. I remember one that worked in one for a couple of years while she finished law school and never showed anybody anything. Didn't have to. Now she's an attorney, a damned fine lookin one. Helluva debater too.OTOH, there are/were those who were quite narcissistic about their exhibitionism, and just loved the attention.Some didn't even care if they didn't get any money. They just like to show off.But don't EVEN come off like it's some kind of sex slave thing. Because it's not.

MK
MK

As if the majority of these women are doing this on their own volition. If the men weren't there demanding it, they wouldn't do it. If they didn't get barked at, bar owners encouraging it, etc., it wouldn't happen. Even in this article, it states how the women were reluctant to show anything. I'm sure some women are all about it, but the majority..no way. Bar owners and managers know it's why people come to those bars and enjoy the profits. The women are making a few measly dollars. Don't blame the women, blame the bar owners for not just allowing this, but for encouraging it and profiting from it.

Ben There
Ben There

I've been a patron in those Alton bars for years, and yes, I've seen a fair amount of nudity. Sure, as a man, I sometimes enjoy a nice set of boobies with my beer. Most make me smile, some have made me have to force a smile. One line I remember from some drunk dude was, "Damn! Looks like golf balls hanging in a sock"! Of course the bartender didn't appreciate that very much. But what kills me, is the fact that some people actually go to these places, knowing full well what goes on there, just so they can see it, develope their self rightious better than thou attitudes, then go snitching to the authorities. Busybodies with apparently nothing to look forward to all day, so they decide to go ruin someone elses day. And with all of the murderers, crackheads and car thieves running around Alton, the police aren't really interested in fighting the evil threat to society that bare mammory glands cause. Funny how America is so backward that way. You can go to any European or Carribean beach and see the same exact thing, and nobody complains, nobody gets hurt.Personally, I can live without bare boobies. Seen 'em before. Big deal. Bags of fat. Whoopteedoo. But over the years, I've noticed a trend.Used to be, the only girls who worked in these places were former strippers from the east side. Battle hardened drug addicted hooker types that no one else would employ. It was hard to feel sorry for them. But nowadays I'm seeing something different. I'm seeing young single mothers, freshly divorced, who normally wouldn't be caught dead in these types of places. I'm seeing young single women who don't make near as much money on their day jobs, so they have to moonlight just to feed their kids. or some have been laid off from minimum wage jobs.And I do feel kind of sorry for them. I listen to their stories of abuse from their ex-husbands, or being laid off from "regular" jobs, and can easily see that they've been dealt a crappy hand.So next time you look down your naked nose at someone's naked breasts, and decide to rescue the world from the evil society collapsing scourge of bare boobies, ask yourself, "Self, will I make the world a better place by snitching on a woman who's just trying to live a life and feed her kids, who isn't trying to murder you, sell drugs to your kids, or sell you a senate seat?

Travis
Travis

I am an Alton area native. I went to the Pub Room about a week before the shit went down in September. After viewing a horrible excuse for a vagina(I'd like to call it a birth canal) from the skanky bar maid, she got pissed and called me uppity when I requested to not drink from their glasses. This article needed t be written. Alton has many short comings, and many natives (like myself) find humor in them. The city is beautiful in it's own right, and has many great establishments that are trying to better the city (i.e. Spirits Lounge, Gentelins on Broadway, Bossanova, etc., etc.). Also, the Grafton scene is great for wine and dining. Why not mention that? Kudos to Chad for making the venutre out to check out the Dive Bar scene (which is one of a kind). I encourage people to check out the historic the riverfront district (state st., etc.) and the many hidden treasure Alton has to offer. It is photographer's dream. Plus a lot of great music and art has came from the "city" of Alton. i.e. Camp Climax For Girls, Judge Nothing, Yorktown Heroes, uns of Navarone, Back of Dave, etc.

P.S. The Alton Telegraph is horrible!

Aaron Goodrich
Aaron Goodrich

I am a former son of Alton, born and raised. I now live in Portland Oregon, which has at last count 92 full nude bars. Alton could do much worse. I also used to work in the Mineral Springs Hotel and will testify that the place is haunted as f#@$!

John Olson
John Olson

Dennis Grubaugh is the epitome of a yellow journalism, and why you offer him another platform is beyond me! He is glad to tarnish the innocent on page 1 of the Telegraph, while child molesters are relegated to the back of the paper.

I'm not sure why there's an issue about women showing their tits anyway? Besides dive bars, there are plenty of churches you hypocrites can frequent.

While I do live in Alton, I am not a fan of the city. I also realize that cigarette smoking and amusement devices can be found all over the area and not just at the Pub Room. And for Mr. Garrison to hone in on bars in Alton is beyond me. NTM, the poker machines come with the blessings of Springfield.

So I raise my glass to the Marlboro Man. PAULA SIMS, SHOW ME YOUR TITS!

 
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