A war of words has erupted between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a Chicago boat charter company over an incident Saturday night which led to citations against the company, and allegations that they put lives at risk.
"I won't use the term that I used when I heard about it," the mayor said at a Monday afternoon appearance. "That was unbelievably irresponsible, and there's going to have to be consequences for them."
The company, which operates the charter boat "Summer of George" from a marina on the south branch of the Chicago River, was cited July 4 for a cruise where they allegedly failed to adhere to social distancing requirements of the phase four guidelines for business reopening.
The boat company "showed egregious disregard for the health and safety of their employees and customers, by blatantly ignoring the reopening requirements," the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said in a statement. "The City will continue to ensure a cautious and safe reopening through strict enforcement of phase four guidelines."
"It's outrageous," the mayor said. "You can be sure that I let out a few colorful words at the stupidity of this boat."
The company's website advertises the "Summer of George" as having a 150 passenger capacity with full beverage service. Rental rates range from $850 per hour during the week, to $1,000 per hour Friday through Sunday, with a $1,300 hourly rate for the Fourth of July.
"They had no pretense of social distancing," the mayor said. "They had every single person that was on that boat, almost a hundred people, crammed into the top deck."
The boat's captain, Rick Dawson, insisted his company violated no rules, and that he and his crew had to educate the city's investigators on what was allowed under the current guidelines.
"They were unorganized in their investigation," Dawson told NBC 5. "And they had the wrong rules."
Dawson said he and his crew knew their limits, that they could operate up to 50% capacity."
"Unfortunately, since they didn't find what they came for, they made something up," he said.
Dawson suggested he would like to talk to Mayor Lightfoot or her representatives to reach some kind of accommodation, but in her remarks Monday, the mayor did not sound like leniency was on her mind.
"The time of saying pretty please, and won't you, and trying to educate - that's over," Lightfoot said. "They chose to do something that was clear violation that put every single one of those people on that boat at risk. They put their profits over public health, and there's going to be consequences."
In addition to the boat charter company, the City of Chicago said it issued 10 citations over the Fourth of July weekend, to five other establishments.