Nearly three weeks after Chicago officials reinstated a mask mandate in public indoor spaces, the city announced it had issued at least 30 citations to local businesses — including bars and restaurants — that failed to enforce the rules. Chicago’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) department, which conducted 110 investigations from Thursday through Sunday alone, wrote out 10 citations over Labor Day weekend, according to the Tribune.
The city hasn’t reveal the identities of the violators, so it’s unclear how many of those 30 are restaurants or bars. The compliance investigation may remind Chicago of the scrutiny over indoor dining after the city and state halted on-premises services last year. As indoor dining continues, the new rules require patrons to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, aligning with a late-July guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diners age two and older should only remove them when “actively eating or drinking.” Chicago is currently reporting a daily average of 446 COVID-19 cases.
BACP says it wants to educate owners who violate the rules before punishing them, preferring to raise awareness over fines. However, a Irving Park restaurant owner told Block Club Chicago that he was surprised to find his business listed among those that received warnings. Chef Arturo Aucaquizhpi, owner of Mirabella Italian Cuisine & Bar at 3454 W. Addison Street, says that he didn’t know inspectors had visited the restaurant and that he hasn’t heard from the city for a month.
Aucaquizhpi said he abides by the mask mandate and takes the pandemic seriously, as his father and two of his uncles died of COVID-19. A BACP rep, however, told Block Club that on-site investigators gave Mirabella a notice after observing maskless employees and also discussed the issue with ownership in Spanish. Aucaquizhpi reportedly maintains that he never spoke with investigators.
And in other news...
— A social media post made over the weekend by the owners of a Cuban restaurant in Noble Square has been making the rounds in Chicago. For those who followed the history of the homophobic and anti-Black comments made by the restaurant’s Cuban-American owners, the post isn’t a surprise. They’ve been churning out memes like this without gaining much traction for months, even resorting to a free drink giveaway in trying to lure would-be protesters to what would be a sparsely attended anti-abortion rally last month outside a Planned Parenthood in Old Town. The recent post includes a meme that attempts to criticize religions other than Christianity (including Islam and Hinduism, because representation matters). Other groups including LGBTQ communities and Black Lives Matter were also called out. The restaurant closed last year after protests but reopened earlier this year as an attention ploy to grow membership within the owners’ evangelical church.
— Despite its name, the food’s the thing at Milk Money Brewing in suburban La Grange, Trib co-critic Louisa Chu declares in an enthusiastic two-star review. The area’s first brewery, Milk Money touts a menu of gulf shrimp tartine with kimchi butter, corn dogs starring sausages made on-site, and wood-fired oysters with mignonette granita. Though she praises a funky lager and thick milk stout, Chu says it quickly became apparent that “the food has not only surpassed the drinks, but... suspected it was the point all along.”
Chu even draws a line between the newish venue and Chicago’s Michelin-starred brewpubs, Moody Tongue Brewing and the now-shuttered Band of Bohemia. “If the French tire company ever ventures back out to the suburbs, Milk Money — which opened in La Grange in December, but celebrated its pandemic-delayed grand opening in July — would deserve some kind of recognition from the guide.”
— Jim’s Original, the iconic 24-hour stand famed for its Maxwell Street Polish sausages, can no longer stay open all night due to supposed concerns over crime in the Little Italy and South Loop. The restaurant at 1250 S. Union Avenue has to shut down between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. daily at the behest of its landlord, the University of Illinois at Chicago, in a move that has upset numerous late-night customers. The Sun-Times has more.