Management of a north suburban hotel that hosted a large indoor wedding reception this week apologized Thursday, saying they "sincerely regret" allowing the event to proceed in violation of the state's coronavirus restrictions.
"The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the hospitality industry and our family-owned business," a statement from the the Hilton Chicago/Northbrook read. "However, our hope to keep the hotel afloat and employees working should not outweigh health and safety. We are committed to working with state and local health authorities to ensure our hotel is abiding by all safety measures and mitigation guidelines."
Management said staff "immediately reviewed" the hotel's bookings to "ensure any business that is inconsistent with the state’s guidelines are not held at this property."
"It will take time, but we hope to rebuild the trust of our guests, staff and community have placed in us for so many years,” Holly Allgauer-Cir, general manager for the hotel, said in a statement.
Earlier Thursday, Cook County health officials said the venue will likely be issued "notices of violation" for allowing the event, which violated statewide restrictions on gathering sizes and indoor dining.
According to Cook County Health Department Co-Lead and Senior Medical Officer Dr. Rachel Rubin, the department plans to issue notices to the hotel for violating "at least a couple of different ordinances, including our order of not allowing indoor dining."
Rubin said an investigation is underway at the hotel to determine if other events took place recently and to obtain a guest list from the wedding, which took place Wednesday night at the Hilton Chicago/Northbrook, located at 2855 Milwaukee Ave. in Prospect Heights.
The violation notices likely won't result in immediately fines or penalties, Rubin said, but she noted that the department is still working with its legal team to determine next steps. Repeated notices are escalated to the Cook County State's Attorney's office, which can decide on penalties, if any.
Rubin said the newlyweds and attendees won't be cited for the event because "we don't cite individuals for their behavior." Other businesses involved in the wedding, such as caterers, could still receive violation notices, however.
"This event should not have happened," Rubin said. "It's put a lot of individuals in danger. I don't even know where to begin. This is the kind of thing that we've been trying to avoid and educate the community about since day one."
Video taken from outside the hotel showed the bride and groom entering a luxury car for what appeared to be a send-off from the reception as a large crowd gathered nearby, waving to the couple, with few members of the group wearing masks and no social distancing in place.
A spokesperson for Hilton said in a statement that the hotel is independently operated but the company was "shocked" by the event and contacted its ownership.
“The safety and wellbeing of our guests and Team Members has always been and remains our top priority," the statement from Hilton reads. "We were shocked to learn that one of our independently owned and operated hotels chose to host an event that disregarded both local regulations and Hilton's brand standards. We immediately connected with the hotel’s ownership to understand the facts and are now addressing our expectations with them directly."
"Hilton prides itself on having industry-leading cleaning and event protocols to protect our guests and Team Members during the COVID-19 pandemic. This incident is not representative of our portfolio of hotels and the extraordinary levels of hospitality offered by our hard-working Team Members every day," the spokesperson added.
Health officials urged anyone who attended the event to quarantine, saying "there are going to be at least a few people at that wedding who were COVID positive and didn't realize it."
"People weren't wearing masks and were crowded together," Rubin said, noting the reception posed a "significant risk" and could become a super spreader event.