IRVING PARK — Several businesses were given warnings for not following the city’s indoor mask mandate — but one restaurant owner on that list said no one notified him about the violation.
Mirabella Italian Cuisine & Bar, 3454 W. Addison St., was one of 16 businesses the city warned for not following the mandate put in place Aug. 20.
Owner Luis Arturo Aucaquizhpi primarily speaks Spanish and was surprised to find out from Block Club his business made the list. No one from the city has spoken to him in the past month, and he didn’t know inspectors had dropped by, Aucaquizhpi said.
On Wednesday, the restaurant had a sign on its front door telling people they need to have a mask when they enter. All customers, employees and Aucaquizhpi and his wife were wearing masks. Customers dining on the outside patio removed their masks to eat.
“I had two uncles and my father die last year from COVID-19,” Aucaquizhpi said in Spanish. “I don’t think COVID is a game, and we take that very seriously.”
Mirabella was given a notice because on-site investigators saw employees not wearing masks and spoke in Spanish with the owner about the issue, said Elisa Sledzinska, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
“… Investigators accommodate language barriers, when possible, by speaking in the business owners’ preferred language,” Sledzinska said.
Aucaquizhpi maintains no one from the business department spoke to him about the mask mandate.
Aucaquizhpi said he’s had some issues with third-party delivery drivers rushing in to pick up an order without their masks and customers who have tried to enter without one who claim the pandemic is a hoax.
“I tell them they need to wear a mask to enter and [they should] go outside to get one or we’ll provide you with a new one,” Aucaquizhpi said.
The only employees Aucaquizhpi allows to remove their masks are the cooks, and that’s only allowed when they step out of the hot kitchen and go outside to get fresh air, he said.
“Running a business is very hard. It’s harder in a pandemic. I have my wife and all these employees I’m responsible for. I’m also responsible for my employees taking care of their families,” Aucaquizhpi said. “That’s why we are following the rules about the masks. I can’t risk this business, and I try to have everything correct for the inspectors.”
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: