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Business

Cigars and Stripes owner says two-way mirror in women's bathroom just a joke

Cigars and Stripes owner Ronnie Lottz stands in the doorway to a closet located in the women's bathroom of his bar. The door to the closet faces the toilet and is installed with a two-way mirror. Online outrage was sparked after Chicago comedian Tamale Rocks posted a video revealing the two-way mirror in the bathroom on YouTube April 26. Lottz said he won't remove the mirror and that it was all part of joke – to scare women using the bathroom.
Cigars and Stripes owner Ronnie Lottz stands in the doorway to a closet located in the women's bathroom of his bar. The door to the closet faces the toilet and is installed with a two-way mirror. Online outrage was sparked after Chicago comedian Tamale Rocks posted a video revealing the two-way mirror in the bathroom on YouTube April 26. Lottz said he won't remove the mirror and that it was all part of joke – to scare women using the bathroom.

BERWYN – Ronnie Lottz is a nut. Just ask him.

Lottz recently found himself the subject of international scorn for having a two-way mirror in the women’s bathroom of his Berwyn bar.

Lottz said he was surprised, and a little hurt, that people didn’t get the joke.

Lottz’s infamy stems from a YouTube video posted April 26 by a female comic who performed at Cigars & Stripes, 6715 W. Ogden Ave. The video had more than 3.1 million views Tuesday.

In the smartphone video, comedian Tamale Rocks shows a mirror hung directly across from the toilet on a door that leads to a small closet. She opens the door to divulge that it’s a two-way mirror.

"The two-way mirror in the ladies room of this establishment is a huge violation and an opportunity for sex crimes," Tamale Rocks said in a statement to the Berwyn Life. 

Many YouTube users who commented on the video agreed with Rocks that the “joke” was in poor taste and made them uncomfortable.

“Even if the room [isn’t] in use that’s pretty stupid and can cause anxiety in people. ... It just ain’t cool,” said a YouTube user who goes by the name Sam.

YouTube user Ellie Cann asked why such a joke was only used in the lady’s room and if it was for Halloween, why it was up the rest of the year.

“As a human being I find it weird and creepy that this would be in any bathroom that the public has access to. It is a violation of privacy. I had never heard of this place until this weekend. … I would have never known that it had this ‘feature’. There should be a notice posted that it is there. If this is something that truly is only used during Halloween then why not have it covered the rest of the year? Why is it only in the lady’s room?” Ellie Cann questioned.

YouTube user Gaugeforever wondered if there was a potential for someone else to use the two-way mirror for an opportunity to spy on women, now that it’s location was known because of coverage of the story.

“So now that the entire Internet knows that the mirror is there, and the door is unlocked, no creepy men will take advantage of that. Surely. It doesn’t matter what the original intention was anymore. The fact is, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen,” Gaugeforever posted to the video.

Lottz said context is in order to get the joke.

“We used to have a mummy [inside the closet] and a light switch on Halloween,” Lottz said. “We’d hit the light switch [making it possible to see through the mirror] and the girl would scream and come running out of there laughing.”

The door to the closet can’t be locked Lottz said, encouraging people to open it and come face to face with the mummy.

Police Chief Jim Ritz said the department has never had any complaints about the business. Police responded to the bar after the video posting was viewed. Officers went through the business, looking for such things as video cables, or other indication that there was any filming or taping going on behind the mirror.

“Everything seemed on the up and up,” Ritz said. “No one’s civil rights seemed to be violated.”

Legally, Lottz did not violate any laws, Ritz added, but police are still investigating.

Meanwhile, Lottz said it is a gag well known by many of his customers and others in town since he put in the mirror in 2001. It’s been posted about on Yelp at least five times, he said, and until this time, has actually drawn customers to the bar.

Lottz, a former wrestling manager, said he has been a fan of the circus since he was a boy trying to get into the Fun House and Freak Show at the Milwaukee Fair. He said he has tried to bring that same bizarre humor to his lounge.

“It’s what this bar stands for,” he said.

Still, the idea of a two-way mirror in a woman’s washroom may be kind of creepy, and he’s not surprised by the reaction and attention it has brought on him.

“It pushes buttons and people like controversy, I get it,” Lottz said. “But people have lost their sense of old school comedy. What hurts me is that people automatically assume there is a man behind that mirror.”

Lottz said he strongly believes in supporting artists, musicians and entertainers and works hard to give them an opportunity to perform.

“It’s so disappointing that a comic who I promoted created a video that went viral and in this case it really hit a nerve with people,” he said. “I put my heart and soul into the fun house of this place.”

So, is Ronnie Lottz a pervert?

“Of course I’m not a pervert,” he said, “but people think all jokesters are perverts.”

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