City Hits Alderman With 2 Citations for Defying Indoor Dining Ban

Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, speaks with “Chicago Tonight” on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (WTTW News)Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, speaks with “Chicago Tonight” on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (WTTW News)

City officials hit Lakeview Ald. Tom Tunney with two citations on Tuesday for allowing diners to eat inside his restaurant in defiance of a ban imposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker 39 days ago in an effort to stop a sustained and grave surge of the coronavirus.

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One of the citations could trigger a fine of up to $10,000 and the second could trigger a maximum fine of $500, after a hearing before an administrative law judge, said Business Affairs and Consumer Protection spokesperson Isaac Reichman. Originally, a statement from the mayor's office said each citation could trigger a fine of $10,000.

Tunney, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s handpicked choice to lead the City Council’s powerful Zoning Committee, admitted on Monday that he flouted the ban on indoor dining by allowing “on a sporadic basis” a “very limited number of our regular diners to eat inside the restaurant while observing social distancing and mask-wearing rules. This was an error in judgment and will not happen again.”

Those citations are in line with penalties imposed on other establishments that allowed indoor dining, according to a statement from the Chicago’s mayor’s office.

Tunney said in a statement on Tuesday that he cooperated fully with the investigation but would not comment further since the hearing on the citations would not take place until February.

“Again, we regret our error in judgment,” Tunney said.

Tunney, elected in 2003 to represent the 44th Ward, which includes Lakeview, Wrigleyville and Boystown, was the first openly gay member of the City Council. In 2019, Lightfoot tapped him to serve as vice mayor, a largely ceremonial position.

Tunney voted against Lightfoot’s 2021 spending plan last month, which included a $94 million property tax hike.

The former chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Tunney has owned Ann Sather, which he expanded from one location to three, since 1981. It is known for its giant sweet rolls, dripping in icing.

During the hearings on Lightfoot’s proposed 2021 budget, Tunney said the city needed to do a better job balancing efforts to stop the pandemic and keep businesses open. Tunney frequently refers to himself as one of the most “pro-business aldermen” on the City Council.

The Restaurant Association campaigned against Pritzker’s suspension of indoor dining and drinking, saying that there was no evidence COVID-19 was spreading at restaurants or bars.

Lightfoot also objected to the indoor dining ban, saying it would decimate Chicago’s restaurants and bars as well as their employees. The mayor has repeatedly said that gatherings in people’s homes are a bigger source of spread.

However, data compiled by the city’s contact tracing efforts found that two of the most common places people have visited in the 14 days prior to testing positive or exhibiting symptoms are restaurants and bars, according to Andy Buchanan, a spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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