coronavirus chicago

City Issues 2 Citations to Chicago Alderman's Restaurant After Diners Allowed Inside

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

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Chicago's Ann Sather restaurant, owned by Ald. Tom Tunney, was given two citations and could face a hefty fine after Tunney admitted the eatery allowed "regular diners" inside in violation of the statewide coronavirus mitigations suspending indoor dining.

The restaurant's Lakeview location, at 909 W. Belmont Ave., was "issued two citations [Tuesday] for violating the statewide order prohibiting indoor dining," the mayor's office said.

The establishment will have to appear for a hearing before the Department of Administrative Hearing and could face a potential fine of up to $10,000 for one citation and $500 for another.

The restaurant was one of several to receive citations in the last week, with the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection citing seven establishments since Dec. 3 for violating COVID-19 regulations.

Tunney admitted Monday that he has allowed "regular diners" inside his Chicago restaurant to eat, calling it an "error in judgement" and saying it "won't happen again."

“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.

The alderman was the recipient of a federal loan for businesses impacted by the coronavirus. Tunney received a PPP loan - listed on records as between $350,000 - $1 million, though he declined to reveal to what the exact amount is.

Records do not show that Tunney received a state grant or loan. Gov. J.B. Pritzker had warned “anybody that took any business interruption grants that is not following the law will have these taken away from them.”  

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.

Several sources from Tunney’s 44th Ward told NBC 5 that Tunney was not as helpful as he could be to other restaurants in his ward looking for outdoor dining permits.

Food truck operators are also upset with Tunney skirting the rules because the alderman has made it difficult for food trucks to operate in the Wrigleyville area.  

"People with too much influence think the rules don’t apply to them. But the small guys are hurting," said Ramon Torres, owner of Aztec Daves.

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