Video taken over the weekend shows a large and tightly packed crowd of unmasked patrons singing, dancing, and drinking at a suburban Chicago concert venue, restaurant, and bar. Brauer House Lombard — a venue whose owners have not hidden their disdain for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration and its COVID-19 mitigations — hosted a live show Saturday night.
While the state has loosened safety rules at restaurants — increasing the number of customers allowed to dine indoors — concert venues regulations remain strict. Even at restaurants, guests are mandated to remain seated with the maximum number of indoor diners allowed at 50. While restaurants and bars could feel closer to “normal” over the spring, experts say “normal” will come later for events with larger crowds like concerts and sporting events. Music venues face special struggles during a pandemic that canceled live events, with efforts like Save Our Stages designed to bring relief.
Brauer House is located 20 miles from Chicago. The club opened in 1999 in Hillside before a fire burned the building down in 2008. They’ve since relocated to Lombard where the venue has a standing capacity of 1,000. They’re known to host shows with local musicians.
CBS 2 Chicago has been tracking what’s happening at Brauer House throughout the pandemic and broke the story. In October, Brauer House owner Steve Brauer filed a lawsuit against Pritzker and health officials over a second ban on indoor dining. The suit claimed the governor lacked the authority to declare disaster emergencies beyond his initial executive order in March 2020. A DuPage County judge denied Brauer’s bid for a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would allow him to continue serving inside his venue. The bar closed temporarily on October 30, following the state’s most recent indoor dining ban.
Brauer reportedly resigned from ownership in late January after he posted made a racist and anti-Semitic post on Facebook. CBS 2 Chicago also reported there had been a recent change in ownership.
Snapchat and other social media videos show a Saturday event called “Out Cold 2,” a concert featuring Chicago-based house artists Gene Farris and Bad Boy Bill. Geolocated videos from multiple users show a crowd of more than 50 from various angles, with attendees mingling in close proximity as brightly colored LED lights swirl around the room. Organizers advertised the event on Facebook as “socially distant” with limited tickets and tables, mask requirements, and temperature checks at the door.
Social media shows Brauer House holding other events that appear to break pandemic rules: Geotagged posts show crowds inside the venue on February 13, according to the caption on an Instagram post. Another video from September 2020 shows a large group of unmasked people watching people burn rubber in a parking lot after a car show.
Reopening plans also collided with COVID-19 regulations: in December, ownership canceled a concert slated for New Years Eve after CBS 2 reporters began asking questions about possible violations of mitigations that at the time entirely ruled out indoor events like live music shows.
On Monday, the U.S. surpassed 500,000 confirmed deaths from the novel coronavirus, which is more than a fifth of 2.5 million deaths from COVID-19 worldwide.