The city of Chicago will shut down bars that aren’t following social distancing guidelines and increase patrols in “problem areas,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other officials told liquor license holders on a conference call ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.
“If you squander this opportunity we will shut you down and you will not reopen anytime soon,” Lightfoot said on the call, according to two sources.
Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, said the message from the mayor was clear and stern.
“Obviously the mayor has been very careful about reopening because of the virus and we don’t want to go backwards. It’s everyone’s best interests to follow the rules,” Martino said. “A couple bad operators can set us back. We’re hoping to make the mayor proud this weekend.”
At an unrelated news conference Thursday, Lightfoot acknowledged warning bar owners that the city won’t allow people to congregate in large numbers and would shut down those who don’t keep it under control.
On the call, Lightfoot said she told bar owners, “This is a make or break weekend for you. Your financial fate is in your hands. Follow the rules or you’re going to suffer the consequences.”
“I don’t want to have to shut you down but if you make me, we will,” Lightfoot said.
“We simply cannot have any large gatherings like we saw last weekend in our bars and restaurants,” she said.
On the call, the city said that the Chicago Police Department and Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department would be proactively canvassing “problems areas,” with potential for immediate closure orders and citations of up to $10,000 each on bar owners that aren’t following rules.
A PowerPoint slide with that message said: “The time for education is over.”
Although Lightfoot has been a strong advocate for reopening Chicago restaurants, publicly lobbying Gov. J.B. Pritzker to allow indoor dining long before he finally made the decision, she’s taken a harder stance on bars.
The city was slow to allow bars to reopen, citing concerns about people losing their inhibitions while drinking.
Martino said it would be helpful to have more enforcement support to prevent people from hanging out around popular bars. The business community can only do so much to prevent that, she said.
“You’re in this quandary where, okay, the city’s telling us you can’t be congregating but the law says you have the right to stand there,” Martino said. “We could use a little help in moving people along a little bit that just come to hang.”
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