City shuts down 300-person party in Wicker Park, other businesses for ‘egregiously’ violating COVID-19 restrictions
More than 300 businesses — including Wildberry Pancake and the Chicago Sports Complex — have been cited since March.
City officials shut down a party with about 300 attendees in a basement venue in the Wicker Park neighborhood over the weekend, officials said Monday.
The venue was one of more than 330 businesses — including one that allegedly held a party with 600 people — cited for violations since March. The latest batch come 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.
None of the 300 attendees was following social distancing protocols or 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 the latest round of COVID-19 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 the Sun-Times 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 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.”
Despite his misgivings, Bethyo said he now plans to do whatever he needs to stay in the city’s good graces because, ultimately, he’s not doing his staff any favors if the restaurant is shut down entirely.
He hopes carryout orders will help the eatery survive.
“Thousands of restaurants have closed in Illinois. So it’s getting a little bad, we’re trying to scrape by, it’s been a rough year, we have a very high rent where we are downtown,” he said.
Other businesses cited by the city since Oct. 30 include:
- Chicago Sports Complex (2600 W. 35th St.): Hosting a party with over 600 attendees, no face coverings or social distancing. The business also issued a long-term closure order requiring them to remain closed until BACP approves a plan for reopening.
- The Ballroom (6351-59 S. Cottage Grove Ave.): Hosting a party with more than 200 attendees, no face coverings or social distancing. The business was also issued a long-term closure order.
- Fat Fish Bar & Grill (234-236 W 31st St.): Egregiously violating social distancing and face coverings requirements on outdoor patio. Issued a long-term closure order.
- Black Cat Lounge (1640 W. 115th St.): Patrons drinking indoors, no face coverings or social distancing.
- The Delta (1745 W. North Ave.): Egregiously violating social distancing and face coverings requirements on outdoor patio.
- Mariscos La Diabla (4222-24 W. 63rd St.): Patrons eating indoors, no face coverings or social distancing.
- Effe Inc. (4216 W. 63rd St.): Patrons eating indoors, no face coverings or social distancing.
- Linda’s Place (1044 W. 51st St.): Patrons eating indoors, no face coverings or social distancing.
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to say over 330 businesses have been cited since March.