The property in question is owned by Willie "Big Mack" McIntosh, a county board member and husband of a Washington Park trustee. McIntosh's wife and the majority of the town's other trustees have approved the plan to convert the building into a strip club. They're just waiting on Mayor James Jones to sign on.
Why the need for another adult-entertainment business in Washington Park?
Because the strip clubs bring in a lot of dough for the struggling community. This year they're expected to pay $39,000 in local taxes.
And, to be fair, the building that houses the library was already a strip club once when it was owned by racketeer Thomas Venezia, who lost the building in the mid-1990s after being convicted of running an illegal gambling empire in the Metro East. (See "Win, Lose or Die
" for more on that story.)
Besides the library building at 5103 Bunkum Road won't technically house a new strip club. It will be home to the "Soft Touch" -- a Washington Park strip club that burned down in November. Soft Touch was also one of the few, if only, minority-owned adult businesses in the nearly all-black city. That ought to count for something. As village trustee Ferris Williams told the Belleville News-Democrat
"They were the only black adult entertainment club owners in the village. I felt it was fair for them continue. They contribute a lot to the children in the village. They just donated $500 to Mayor Jones' memorial celebration of past great leaders in the village a couple of weeks ago. I feel we should be there for those who support Washington Park."
Here at Daily RFT
we're just hoping that should Mayor Jones approve the strip joint (which he shouldn't; this deal stinks of cronyism) he requires that it change its name to honor the building's past life as a home for literature and learning. We're thinking it should be called the "The Pubic Library" or perhaps the "Hard Catalog." Just anything but the Soft Touch.
You have your own suggestions? Leave it in the comment section below.
Washington Park is home to 5,000 people and eight strip clubs. Make that nine if officials in the impoverished metro East St. Louis community pass a plan to turn the town's former library into a topless bar.