Afternoon Edition: Dec. 7, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Ald. Tom Tunney inside his main Ann Sather restaurant.

AP Photos

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be cloudy, with a chance of sprinkles in the forecast and a high near 40 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 30 degrees. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 41 degrees.

Top story

Ald. Tom Tunney served restaurant customers indoors, defying state and city orders

Ald. Tom Tunney acknowledged today he “made a mistake” by allowing some of his regular customers to dine inside his Ann Sather Restaurants in defiance of state and city orders banning indoor dining.

In late October, Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered Illinois restaurants to close their dining rooms for a second time since the pandemic to stop a second surge of coronavirus cases that was worse than the first.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot initially voiced her concern about the devastating impact on Chicago restaurants, then came away from an hourlong meeting with the governor resigned to the rollback.

Today, “Second City Cop,” a blog devoted to police issues, disclosed that the 44th Ward alderman has been thumbing his nose at the governor’s order.

The item referred to Tunney’s restaurants as “Stan Rather’s” and included photographs of plates of food on indoor tables. On one table, there was a copy of the Dec. 3 Wall Street Journal along with a slice of bacon in the corner of the photo.

Tunney openly acknowledged having defied the governor’s order.

“We have, on occasion, sat regular diners in the back of the restaurant. I acknowledge that. It’s not OK. I made a mistake, and I’m owning up to it. I should have not sat regular customers in my restaurant whatsoever,” said Tunney, Lightfoot’s handpicked chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee.

“I have a lot of repeat customers over the years. On a sporadic basis, I have let regular customers — very few and far between — in my store. I made an error.”

Tunney was asked why he chose to defy the state and city orders. Was it because his restaurant was fighting for survival during a pandemic that has forced many Chicago restaurants to close?

“Everyone’s struggling,” he said. “I’m not gonna equate my situation with anyone else’s.”

Under repeated questioning about how many customers he had served indoors, Tunney hung up on our reporter. In a statement released minutes later, the aldermen said, “On a sporadic basis, we have allowed a very limited number of our regular diners to eat inside the restaurant while observing social distancing and mask-wearing rules. This was error in judgment and won’t happen again.”

Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia, former owner of Leona’s Restaurants, said restaurants in Chicago and across the state have been “hemorrhaging for the last eight months.” Like his colleagues, Tunney was “trying to figure out how to keep team members employed and paid,” Toia said.

“It’s really, really a tough time. The alderman made an error in judgment. I would hope it won’t happen again,” Toia said.

Read Fran Spielman’s full story here.

More news you need

  1. Illinois health officials reported 8,691 new and probable cases of the coronavirus today, as well as 90 additional deaths. As of last night, 5,190 people were hospitalized statewide with the virus.
  2. Just weeks after beloved 911 dispatcher Guadalupe Lopez died from complications of COVID-19, his wife has succumbed to the disease. “It’s just the worst living nightmare, pure-hell situation you can’t even make up or dream of,” said the couple’s daughter.
  3. The Chicago Teachers Union is making its second legal attempt in as many months to put Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plans on hold, accusing the district of illegally refusing to negotiate health and safety conditions before ordering teachers back into classrooms. The new charge comes less than a month before teachers are expected to return to schools for the first time during the pandemic.
  4. In a year when gun violence has surged to heights not seen in more than two decades, Kim Foxx promised today to continue working to improve the criminal justice system as she was sworn in for her second term as Cook County state’s attorney. She said the challenges Chicago currently faces, including gun violence, are “eerily reminiscent” of 2016.
  5. Peter DiFronzo, a reputed member of the Chicago Outfit and brother to one-time Outfit leader John “No Nose” DiFronzo, has died of complications of COVID-19 at 87. DiFronzo was long considered a chief lieutenant to his brother and, according to the FBI, a “made man.”
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A bright one

‘Dear Santa’ documentary features Chicago volunteers who do more than answer kids’ dreams

The U.S. Postal Service’s “Operation Santa” kicked off its 108th year Friday, and a new documentary, “Dear Santa,” chronicles the good deeds of people around the country who’ve helped make the program a success, including a Chicago organization called There Really Is A Santa Claus.

Matt Beresh, his wife Jennifer Jones and her sister Ashley Jones started There Really Is A Santa Claus in 2002, choosing a few “Dear Santa” letters from the main Chicago post office downtown to respond to.

Their operation has grown into a not-for-profit organization that, thanks to donations, delivers more than $30,000 a year’s worth of gifts to families around Chicago. It has provided gifts to 1,250 people over the past six years.

The Postal Service’s program aims to provide children in need with gifts. There Really Is A Santa Claus aims to take that a step farther. Though the post office doesn’t give its volunteer helpers contact information for families in need, Jones said her group writes a personal response to each letter with the organization’s contact information, asking about what everyone in the household needs, not just the child who wrote to Santa. The post office forwards those letters.

That allows Jones’ organization to deliver gifts that go beyond a toy that a child requests, also delivering larger items like beds, cribs, “even tires for a man who needed them for his car to get to work.”

She and her team focus on the usually neglected bin of “Dear Santa” letters that come to the main post office at 433 W. Harrison St. from families with six or more kids: “That bin is never touched, sadly, and we have the funds to help them.”

Read more about There Really Is A Santa Claus here.

From the press box

Dick Allen, the former big league star who won American League MVP as a member of the White Sox in 1972, has died at the age of 78. The news was announced this afternoon on his official Twitter account.

And while former Bears players vented on social media after the franchise’s deflating loss to Detroit, head coach Matt Nagy said today that he’s had no conversations with team brass about his job status.

That won’t do for columnist Rick Morrissey, who writes that it’s time for a house cleaning at Halas Hall after Sunday’s embarrassment.

Your daily question ☕

If Congress doesn’t step in with a new stimulus package, what will it mean for you to lose your unemployment check?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Friday, we asked you: What’s been your best pandemic binge-watch, and what’s next on your list? Here’s what some of you said…

“Usually don’t watch TV or binge watch for that matter, but it has been lots of ‘Outlander,’ the World War II series ‘The Pacific,’ and ‘The Goldbergs.’ Next in the queue is ‘Queen’s Gambit.’ And taped final episodes of the wonderful Alex Trebek hosting Jeopardy.” — Andrew Lindemulder

“The new season of ‘Dead To Me’ was probably my favorite quarantine watch. Just love Christina Applegate!” — Lindsey Murphy

“Love ‘The Repair Shop’! I’m a bit bummed that there’s only one season up on Netflix (Season 3), when there used to be more, but I’ll take what I can get.” — Pam Gillespie

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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