CHICAGO - The party is over for 17 party bus companies, the Chicago Police Department and Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection announced Monday.
The city and the CPD said those companies are in violation of an ordinance that cracks down on illegal party buses. This comes after a three-day field investigation of party-bus and charter-bus operators.
"We found everything from operating - obviously, the cease and desist was because of operating without a license - but we have found individuals not to have proper proof of insurance. I know that for those that were potentially conducting party bus activity that they have had no security, no cameras," said Commissioner Rosa Escareno, Chicago Department of Business Affairs.
In the joint operation, investigators issued 17 cease and desist orders to bus companies they found to be out of compliance with the ordinance, which was toughened in April.
Companies are now required to display their licenses clearly and have cameras on board. A security guard must be on board for trips involving 15 or more passengers, trips where alcohol is served and trips that include stops where alcohol is consumed. Bus drivers must also ensure no passengers are carrying illegal firearms or drugs.
The cease and desist orders apply to the company's entire fleet - not just the cited vehicle.
Party buses operating illegally will be subject to the maximum fines and the vehicle will be impounded, police said. Minimum fines are $1,000 for a first-time violation and increase to $5,000 for subsequent violations. Ignoring a Cease and Desist order also carries a minimum $5,000 fine, police said.
Chicago police and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection released Monday a list of the 17 companies that were issued cease and desist orders:
-AAA Exquisite Limousine, LTD
-Chicago Classic Coach
-Chicago Cloud 9 Limo
-Chicago Party Bus 1
-Chicago Party Bus Rent
-Chi Town Limo Bus
-Chi Town Party Bus
-Crystal Limousine Group, Inc.
-Elite Chicago Limo
-Exquisite Limo & Party Bus Chicago
-Limos Alive Party Bus Rental
-Manuel D. Tavarez
-Professional Limousine Service, Inc
-The Trolley Car & Bus Company
-VIP Limousine, Inc and Chicago Party Bus Rental
"This isn't just a downtown problem. These operators run their buses throughout the city and that's why it's important to the overall crime picture of Chicago," CPD Chief Anthony Riccio said.
The city called for the crackdown after seeing a string of violent incidents involving party buses.
In March, two men were shot and killed in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood as they exited a party bus. A verbal altercation between passengers and a person in an SUV sparked the shooting.
Last September, a man was shot in Grant Park near Buckingham Fountain. He was standing with a group of people when police said that group got into an argument with several men who just exited a party bus.
The city also warned consumers to beware. Hiring a company that isn't licensed and isn't in compliance with the law will cause a trip to be shut down.
Some bus operators applauded the effort to crack down on unlicensed operators for the safety and reputation of the industry, but said the ordinance goes too far.
Muhammad Bhatti of LCW Coach said the new requirement to have a camera recording customers is causing him to lose business. George Jacobs of Windy City Limo said requiring security could mean a security guard is standing if the party is at capacity, which could be dangerous.