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Not Following Mask, Social Distancing Rules The Most Common Reasons Businesses Are Getting In Trouble, City Says

The city has cited 149 businesses since early June. Punishments include fines up to $10,000 and even orders to close.

Wise Owl Drinkery was shut down by the city for violating coronavirus precautions.
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CHICAGO — More than 100 businesses have been cited for things related to coronavirus safety since the city reopened in early June, the Mayor’s Office said Friday.

The most common issues: not following masking and social distancing rules.

In all, the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has done 2,381 investigations at Chicago businesses, according to the Mayor’s Office. Just 7 percent of those investigations have led to citations, with the punishments being spread among 149 businesses.

Of those businesses, 114 were cited for not following face covering requirements, with 86 of them failing to ensure customers were wearing face coverings and 70 failing to have employees wear face coverings properly, according to the city.

The city rules vary by industry, but employees are required to wear face coverings at almost all times. Customers at restaurants are also required to wear face coverings, except while eating or drinking.

The next most common issue for businesses has been social distancing, according to the city, with 72 businesses cited for not ensuring people kept 6 feet apart. Seventeen businesses went above their indoor capacity limit and 10 were open or sold alcohol past the allowed hours.

Many businesses were cited for multiple violations, according to the city.

Any one of those citations can lead to fines of up to $10,000 or the temporary closures of businesses.

Three businesses have gotten long-term closure orders “for egregious and repeated violations,” according to the city: Wise Owl, 324 S. Racine Ave. in the West Loop; Cork and Kerry, 10614 S. Western Ave. in Beverly; and The Lotus Black, also known as 1540 Bar & Grill, at 1540 W. North Ave. in Bucktown.

The city has also ordered 42 businesses to close for one day as a punishment.

The city’s tried to help businesses by reaching out with calls and webinars to spread awareness of the coronavirus safety rules, officials have said.

But some businesses that have been cited and closed have said they didn’t break the rules, they were targeted by the city or the punishments were unfair. Critics have said the city’s fines and closures are a hardship on stores and restaurants that are already struggling due to the pandemic and the months-long stay at home order that slowed business.

The majority of the investigations done by the department stem from complaints, according to the city. There were more than 41 complaints coming in per day in July, the peak of complaints; now, there are about 22 per day.

The city’s rules for industries are available online.

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