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Portillo's Disgusted by Racy Billboard Above Restaurant

By Ted Cox | February 14, 2013 1:47pm | Updated on February 14, 2013 2:10pm
 The adult billboard hovers near the intersection of Clark and Ontario.
The adult billboard hovers near the intersection of Clark and Ontario.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

RIVER NORTH — The most infamous billboard in Chicago lives above Portillo's restaurant in River North — and the restaurant is disgusted by it.

The racy billboard for the adult dating site arrangementfinders.com features porn star Bree Olson and includes the line: "Because the best job is a b--w job."

The offending word is blurred out, but little is left to the imagination.

"We don't own the sign, and the owner thinks it's disgusting," said Patty Sullivan, spokeswoman for Portillo's, a family friendly restaurant. "I don't think there's anything we can do about it."

Michael Wright, manager of the restaurant at Clark and Ontario, said "it is not appropriate," and referred calls to the corporate office. "I'm sure they're not happy about it."

 Emily Fry says she's not a prude, but finds the billboard "nasty" and "inappropriate."
Emily Fry says she's not a prude, but finds the billboard "nasty" and "inappropriate."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Sullivan said the only hope to rid the restaurant roof of the sign is a public backlash, adding, "I think the majority of people find it disgusting."

The billboard is across the street from the Rock 'N' Roll McDonald's and is within easy view of the entrance to the family-friendly Rainforest Cafe on the next block south on Clark.

"It's nasty. It's inappropriate," said Emily Fry, whose office at the far more wholesome It's Just Lunch dating website looks out on the billboard.

"I'm not a prude," she added. "Hopefully, the publicity will get them to take it down."

"I think it's kind of sexist," Mohammed Ansari of Palatine said as he passed by on the way to an appointment downtown. "I thought we'd gone beyond that."

Asked about it Wednesday by WBBM Channel 2 reporter Jay Levine, Mayor Rahm Emanuel seemed at first taken aback, but then said it was a First Amendment issue.

"There are certain things you say I don't think are appropriate also," he told Levine. "I'm not going to respond to that, because I haven't seen it. ... But we do have a First Amendment."

The billboard is owned by Urban Core Outdoor, a Chicago company, which did not return calls for comment. The adult website has stated the job-related ad campaign was specifically designed for Chicago given the tough unemployment situation here.

It's not the first time a racy billboard has generated controversy in Chicago.

In 2007, a law firm's advertisement, featuring a man's six-pack abs and a woman's cleavage, advised people, "Life's Short. Get a Divorce." A year later, a billboard for a Brazilian liquor raised eyebrows when it left little to the imagination when it showed a naked woman arching her back next to a bottle of booze.