RIVER WEST— Chicago Police were called to a River West bar after neighbors say it was flouting the state’s mandatory shutdown of in-person service at bars as coronavirus continued to spread.
At about 9 p.m. Tuesday, officers were called to Richard’s Bar, 491 N. Milwaukee Ave., for a report of an ordinance violation, according to a law enforcement source. That was less than 24 hours after the Gov. JB Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants closed for at least two weeks beginning Monday night.
River West neighbors, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told Block Club they were walking their dog around the block and noticed the bar was open. Inside, they saw a bartender behind the bar, other “elderly” people bellied up to the bar drinking, and another patron playing video poker while drinking beer.
Video gaming operations have also been ordered closed for two weeks to try to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The husband and wife said the bar’s neon lights were off outside, but inside lights were on and a total of about nine people were inside the bar “drinking.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the bar was closed and stools topped the bar. Reached by phone, a Richard’s Bar employee denied the claim that the bar was serving people Tuesday night.
“We are not open. We are carry-out only. You can pick up a six-pack and go. We are not open,” he said before hanging up.
Richard’s Bar is a “slashie” — a tavern that also sells packaged goods up front. Under the governor’s order, bars and restaurants can continue carry-out sales if their licensing allows it.
While the bar rep said they were only open for carry out, the River West couple countered that claim.
“These were not people coming and going,” the man said. “These were people sitting there having a drink., and having a good ol’ time.”
“This is just irritating,” the man’s wife said. “Everything else is closed, all the other places have signs that say they have closed aside from carry out. They should be closed.”
Pritzker said he moved to close bars and restaurants for in-person service after people ignored his pleas to stop crowding into bars on St. Patrick’s Day weekend as coronavirus continues to spread across the globe.
“This is not a joke,” he said. “No one is immune to this, and you have an obligation to act in the best interests of all the people in this state.”
Health officials have identified elderly individuals and immunocompromised people to be at higher risk if contracting COVID-19.
Chicago Police spokeswoman Sally Bown said police responded to a bar in the 400 block of North Milwaukee Ave. Tuesday night, but no incident report was generated from the visit.
It’s unclear whether Richard’s Bar was issued a warning or citation. Police officers have been giving establishments defying the directive a warning the first time, a law enforcement source said.
The city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection did not receive a complaint about Richard’s Bar and deferred questions to the Chicago Police Department.
Isaac Reichman, a spokesman for the agency, said the department has activated four teams to assist with enforcement. Fines can range from $200 to $10,000 “and egregious violations can be referred to the Department of Law for license discipline,” Reichman said.
Neighbors who called police were incensed by the bar’s alleged defiance. But the popular late-night dive has been known to flout other rules — it’s smoky atmosphere persists despite a smoking ban that was enacted more than a decade ago.
“It’s upsetting because we should all be following the executive order and isolating ourselves. Everyone else in the neighborhood manages to close, but they are still operating,” the neighbors said.
Paterimos’ family called on city officials to close the bar.
As of 2015, the bar was owned by Susan Dominic, sister of Robert “Bobby” Dominic, who at one time was classified by law enforcement officials as a mob associate, according to the Sun-Times.
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