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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

City Adds New Inspectors For Nights And Weekends To Crack Down On Problem Businesses

The decision to create a permanent team came after investigators issued 504 tickets to "problem operators" this fall, officials said.

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CHICAGO — The city says it’s adding new inspectors on nights and weekends to crack down on illegal activities in neighborhoods and help small businesses.

“Businesses are not open only 9-5 hours, we should be aligning to meet them when they are open,” Rosa Escareno, commissioner of the Dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, told Block Club.

Rosa Escareno

“We know there are many illegal businesses that operate at night and on weekends. We are going into establishments with businesses that have problems and complaints, it’s a lot of public nuisance issues,” Escareno said.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection oversees all business licensing and commercial vehicles such as taxis, party buses and ride-hailing operators.

Four new permanent nights and weekends investigators who are in training now will be hitting the streets in December. The new team will also include two existing supervisors, Escareno said.

The decision to create the team comes after a successful pilot program launched in September. During “monthly strategic night missions,” investigators issued 504 tickets to problem operators, according to the department.

The kinds of businesses ticketed during the fall pilot included those selling untaxed tobacco, as well as party buses and charters operating without a license or security guard when required.

“These tickets are for everything from illegal massage, out of date merchandise, no license or illegal tobacco. On special missions the investigators will partner with the Chicago Police Department for late night enforcement, including public vehicles and illegal valets,” said a spokeswoman for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Another focus of the new team will be enforcing plans of operation, making sure businesses, whether a corner grocery or nightclub, are complying with the agreements that allow them to continue doing business, the spokeswoman said.

In a news release announcing the stepped-up enforcements, Mayor Rahm Emanuel referred to small businesses as “the lifeblood of our neighborhoods and the backbone of our economy.” He said the new initiative is “the latest in a series of efforts to ensure our small businesses get the around-the-clock support they need to serve their communities, grow and thrive.”

Escareno said the new effort has the support of aldermen and community groups in addition to Emanuel because the enforcements will target activities that impact “quality of life.” 

No specific neighborhoods were targeted during the pilot program — nor will they be once the effort is in full swing, she said.

“We hit various areas around the city,” Escareno said.