CHICAGO — As coronavirus cases nationwide are increasingly linked to parties, the city said it is cracking down on large gatherings.
Over the weekend, Business Affairs and Consumer Protections (BACP) rolled out a new task force aimed at cracking down on parties, events and large gatherings in both commercial and residential buildings, said Rosa Escareno BACP Commissioner.
The task force includes BACP, the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department and the Chicago Police Department, “investigating reports of large parties with the goal of shutting them down before they begin,” Escareno said.
While the vast majority of businesses are following the rules, Escareno said, the city has seen an increase in reports of “dangerous events, gatherings and parties” both at commercial and residential locations.
The new effort is using 311 and 911 complaints and monitoring social media to crack down on illegal parties. The strategy will hold event planners and partygoers accountable to the health requirements, Escareno said.
“We want all party planners and partygoers to be warned that large events and gatherings that violate the health order…put the entire community at risk will not be tolerated,” she said.
Under Phase 4 of the city’s reopening plan, no more than 50 people are allowed at a given location — and that is with social distancing practices in place.
Last week, as coronavirus cases climbed across the state, public health officials urged residents to stop hosting parties.
“We are seeing what much of the country is seeing in terms of a resurgence in the number of cases,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Not only have we started to see an increase in the number of cases … but we’re also seeing a slight increase in hospital admissions, as well.”
Ezike said she understands that coronavirus fatigue is real, but that does not mean the virus is over. People should also cancel group-based celebrations like bachelor parties and house parties, she said.
“Each of us is called to make that personal sacrifice now to avoid making a much larger one down the road,” Ezike said.
Over the weekend, the city’s task force investigated 23 such mass gatherings and issued five cease and desists, and three immediate closure orders including one at Trap Warehouse, 4106 W. Chicago Ave. in Humboldt Park, Escareno said.
The party was planned from 10 p.m. Friday, July 31 until 4 a.m. Saturday, according to an Eventbrite page.
“Come out and party, perform and networking in with other upcoming entrepreneurs and enjoy the vibes of our JD in our new 5,000 square foot warehouse,” the advertisement reads.
When investigators arrived, Escareno said people were disregarding the health requirements. “No mask, no social distancing,” she said. “We cited the party and shut it down.”
“We are extremely concerned with these illegal parties that are potentially causing some of the increase in cases,” Escareno said.
Along with COVID-related citations, the city hit the owners with other license violations.
“Not only were they not following the COVID guidelines, but they were…not a licensed establishment, [and] they were providing liquor with no liquor license,” she said.
Overall, BACP investigated 43 total complaints, at businesses and residential locations, which lead to 16 citations among eight businesses who violated the health order, Escareno said.
The department did not immediately respond to questions about how many people were in the warehouse, the names of the cited businesses or provide further details on fines and citations.
To date, the department has conducted about 1,000 investigations and issued citations to 53 businesses, Escareno said.
“We take very seriously our responsibility to hold business accountable and issue strict enforcement when they are violating the health orders,” the commissioner said.
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