coronavirus chicago

Ald. Tunney Admits Allowing ‘Regular Diners' Inside Restaurant Despite COVID Restrictions

Tunney called the move an "error in judgement" and said it "won't happen again"

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Ald. Tom Tunney admitted Monday that he has allowed "regular diners" inside his Chicago restaurant to eat in violation of the statewide coronavirus mitigations that suspended indoor dining.

“On a sporadic basis, we have allowed a very limited number of our regular diners to eat inside the restaurant while observing social distancing and mask-wearing rules," Tunney, chairman of the City Council's Zoning Committee and owner of the Ann Sather Restaurant, said in a statement to NBC 5.

Tunney called the move an "error in judgement" and said it "won't happen again."

On Monday, a car from City’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection could be seen parked outside the Lakeview location, at 909 W. Belmont Ave.

Reports first surfaced about diners being allowed inside Tunney's Ann Sather restaurant after a post by Second City Cop, an opinionated blog related to police issues, wrote about a "tip" on a so-called speakeasy restaurant.

The post called the restaurant "Stan Rather" and said guests who asked for a special "VIP" room could be granted access to dining indoors. It included photos of diners inside along with a dated newspaper from Thursday.

"Our COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions apply to every single individual and establishment in Chicago so that we can further ensure the health and safety of our residents," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. "Any business found in violation of these guidelines has been and will be held fully accountable. No exceptions."

"He definitely made an error in judgment on this one," said Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia, who warned however that restaurants are struggling and without federal help, many will be forced to shutter.

Indoor dining has been shut down in the city since late October as part of increased mitigations imposed by the state.

At the time, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot questioned the decision.

“[Restaurants have] been struggling since March. They are the industry that’s been most impacted,” she said.

But Pritzker defended the decision even as some restaurants across the state vowed to defy the restrictions.

"I feel terrible for the law-abiding bar and restaurant owners that there are others out there trying to take advantage of the public and get them sick," Pritzker said when asked about Tunney Monday during his daily coronavirus update.

Late last month, city employees shut down a party with more than 300 maskless attendees inside the basement of a Wicker Park business.

"It’s extremely upsetting and disappointing that we have some operators that are completely trying to fly under the radar and not adhering to the guidelines," said Rosa Escareno, commissioner of Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Since Oct. 30, BACP has issued 20 citations and 54 notices to correct to bars, restaurants and other business that permitted indoor dining and/or drinking.

Additionally, officials have issued one-day closure orders to nine businesses, four of which were given long-term closure orders for egregiously violating the COVID-19 regulations.  

Since March, BACP has conducted more than 6,500 COVID-19 investigations and cited more than 330 businesses for violating regulations.

"This is basically a slap in the face of the businesses that are operating and trying to do the things that are correct," Escareno stated.

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