CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot threatened to shut down bars and restaurants that don’t follow measures put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus this weekend, saying it was “make-or-break” time.
Lightfoot’s announcement at a Thursday press conference came as Illinois is starting to see an uptick in new cases — and less than a week after bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen for indoor seating.
It also comes amid a national surge in COVID-19 cases. States and cities throughout the country are seeing the number of cases and hospitalizations spike, with the United States reporting a record of nearly 50,000 new cases Wednesday.
“We see what’s happening in states around the country, even all the states that are surrounding us,” the mayor said. “And when governors get concerned, what do they do first? They shut down the bars and they shut down the restaurants. …
“If we see businesses that are flouting the rules … we’re not gonna hesitate to shut you down. And if you’re shut down, you’re not coming back anytime soon.”
City officials said they will have stepped-up enforcement this weekend and will look for businesses in violation of rules — including those letting more than 25 percent of capacity inside.
Businesses that violate face mask guidelines will face citations of up to $10,000 each, said Rosa Escareno, commissioner of the city’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department. “Egregious” disregard of health and safety guidelines will lead to a shutdown.
“The time for awareness and education is over, and the time to be serious about keeping our city safe starts now,” Escareno said.
Lightfoot noted some bars and restaurants broke the rules right out of the gate last weekend when the city allowed bars and restaurants to have indoor seating. In Wrigleyville, for example, long lines of unmasked people gathered as they waited to get inside bars.
The mayor said she and other officials had a call Thursday with hundreds of bar and restaurant owners to talk about the city’s crackdown. She heard a lot of complaints about how it’s hard to follow the rules, Lightfoot said, but ultimately “it’s on” them to follow the rules.
“We simply cannot have any large gatherings like we saw last weekend in our bars and restaurants,” Lightfoot said. “This is a make-or-break weekend for you. Your financial fate is in your hands.
“Abide by the rules or, unfortunately, you’re gonna suffer the consequences, and we’re not playing with this.”
The city had previously focused more on educating and warning businesses that broke the city’s and state’s coronavirus safety rules.
But Escareno said the time to educate businesses and hand out warnings is over.
“Our goal is not to shut you down. We want to encourage our economy. We want to ensure that we’re progressing,” Escareno said. “But this is not the time to step back. We’ve seen so many other cities across the country stepping back, going back to Phase 3 and even beyond. We want to keep moving forward.”
Escareno said most businesses are complying, but others are packed with customers “as if we are not in a crisis.”
“I have seen standing room-only on rooftops and bars,” she said. “Remember: Patrons must be seated at all times; butts in seats. I cannot say that enough times … .
“I have seen lines outdoors and congregating with no masks and no social distancing. Any line being formed outside of a business, it is the responsibility of the business to address that. And if you cannot manage your line, then go with reservations only.”
The business department will partner with the Police Department and other city agencies for the crackdown this weekend, Escareno said.
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