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City shuts down 300-person party in Wicker Park, other businesses for ‘egregiously’ violating COVID-19 restrictions
City officials shut down a party with about 300 attendees in a basement venue in Wicker Park over the weekend, officials said.
The venue was one of more than 300 businesses — including one that allegedly held a party with 600 people — cited for violations one month into citywide orders against indoor gatherings, dining and drinking.
Police were called to the illegal party early Sunday at The Vault in the 1600 block of West Division Street, according to a statement from the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
No one was following social distancing protocols or was wearing face coverings, the agency said. Multiple citations were issued, including cease and desist orders and closure orders to the business “for throwing a dangerous and unlicensed commercial party.”
Since restrictions went into effect in Chicago Oct. 30, the city conducted 877 investigations and issued 20 citations and 54 notices to bars, restaurants and other businesses for allowing indoor dining or drinking.
The past weekend alone, the city conducted 93 investigations, 14 of which were done with Chicago police and other city agencies.
“While the vast majority of Chicago’s businesses are doing the right thing and following the COVID-19 regulations to keep Chicagoans and their employees safe, it is incredibly disheartening to see some establishments continue to egregiously and blatantly disregard the guidelines and put our entire community at risk,” BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno said in a statement.
“Actions like this are a slap in the face to the thousands of businesses and millions of Chicagoans that are making sacrifices every day to keep our city safe, and we will continue cracking down on this inexcusable activity.”
Since March, the city has conducted more than 6,500 COVID-19 investigations and cited more than 330 businesses for violating the regulations.
Kevin Bethyo, owner of Wildberry Pancake in Streeterville, told us he knew it was against the rules to let people eat inside his restaurant; he did it anyway.
“People wanted to sit inside, we let them sit inside,” Bethyo said. “We’re just trying to keep our staff employed.”
Bethyo was given repeated warnings and finally issued four citations and shut down for three days earlier this month before he was allowed to reopen. Each citation carries a possible fine of up to $10,000. The city is also pursuing disciplinary action against Wildberry’s business license itself, which can lead to suspension or revocation.
“I think that, in all honesty, people should have the information they need, and if people want to sit inside they should be able to sit inside — freedom would be ideal,” he said. “People can sit in planes, go to stores, do Black Friday shopping, I’m not sure why they can’t sit at tables.”
More news you need
- With a potential post-holiday spike still looming, Illinois’ coronavirus metrics took a slight turn for the worse today as public health officials announced COVID-19 has spread to 12,542 more people and claimed another 125 lives. That raises the state’s average positivity rate over the last week from 10.1% to 10.4%.
- Chicago gun violence continued to decline as temperatures dropped in November, but shootings and murders are still spiking compared with last year. Nearly 3,800 people were shot through the end of November, compared to about 2,400 in the same period last year — a 58% increase.
- A judge has ordered Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office to pay $16,000 in legal fees to the family of a slain taxi driver who sued for case documents. Anis Tungekar died after being kicked in the head by an Uber driver who left the country before charges were filed. His family believed internal records could explain why it took three months to file murder charges.
- The city towed 232 cars early this morning on the first day of the winter parking ban. Although the drivers face at least $235 in fines, fewer drivers were caught unaware than last year.
- A contentious proposal to add landmark protections to hundreds of buildings in Pilsen failed to win approval from a Chicago City Council committee this morning. The tally in the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards: 18 aldermen voting no, zero voting yes.
- Plans to consider the closure of three public elementary schools and the opening of a new one in North Lawndale have been put on hold as groups of residents with competing ideas for the revitalization of the neighborhood look to hammer out their differences in the coming months. The proposal faced heavy scrutiny from fellow residents who have scars from years of disinvestment and underfunding.
- Sky-high pot prices will increase even more at the start of the year in two Illinois cities: Arlington Heights and Carbondale. Ten municipalities and two counties will levy an additional tax on recreational weed sales at the start of the year.
A bright one
Iris Martinez, the first Latina to be elected Cook County Circuit Court clerk, was sworn into office today with a promise of a “new beginning.”
Martinez pledged to create “the best office of the clerk of the circuit court in the United States” and said she would maximize residents’ tax dollars, create new efficiencies and provide better accessibility.
“We will work to create a just and fair court system, an accurate and accessible court system, for every resident of Cook County,” Martinez said after bring sworn in by Appellate Court Judge Jesse Reyes.
With 17 years in office, Martinez was the longest serving Hispanic woman elected to the state senate, and she placed herself among other trailblazing women today after taking the oath of office, saying she wanted to dedicate the moment to all girls and women, but particularly to other Latinas.
“Don’t you ever let anyone stop you,” Martinez told them. “Don’t you ever stop. Always dream, dream big. Dream the impossible, because you too can make history.”
From the press box
White Sox manager Tony La Russa is expected to “plead guilty to charges of some sort” in his DUI case in Arizona, a court official told us today. A change-of-plea hearing for La Russa is set for Dec. 21.
And Zach LaVine brushed aside the stress over a possible trade while front and center at the Bulls’ media day this morning: “As long as I’m on this team, I’m gonna continue to put my input and try to be a leader,” LaVine said when asked about rumors of a deal.
Your daily question ☕
Where have you seen the best holiday decorations up this year? Send us your photos!
Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
Yesterday, we asked you: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping habits? Here’s what some of you said…
“I shop online. I’m not giving as much this year, but still giving a bit. I’m only shopping locally.” — Angie Mamrot
“I work at Woodfield Mall and people were out in full force shopping. There were crowds and most of them didn’t care… they just wanted a deal.” — Linda Niewierowski
“No, I liked buying online in the first place. I have never been part of the Christmas buying frenzy.” — Guy Williams
“Didn’t spend a dime!” — Dean Allan
Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.