Chicago fields thousands of complaints of businesses operating in violation of stay-at-home order

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC7 I-Team has the latest citation data from Chicago as it cracks down on non-essential businesses operating in violation of the stay-at-home order.

The Restore Illinois plan is very specific about which businesses can be open, like grocery and hardware stores, and those that must stay closed. However, businesses of all kinds have continued to operate, leading to thousands of complaints.

READ IN FULL: Restore Illinois 5-phase reopening plan by Governor Pritzker splits IL into 4 regions

There were 3,829 complaints filed since the stay at home order began in March, according to the Commissioner of Chicago's Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP).
"Some businesses that were operating at the beginning of the order, we called them up and told them, 'hey, you know that you should be closed,' and people were like, 'oh, we didn't realize that,'" Commissioner Rosa Escareno said.

She said BACP has made 15,256 outreach calls so far to businesses in order to prevent citations, which can carry hefty fines.

"If somebody is not complying, they will face violations and penalties," Escareno explained.

Citation amounts depend on the infraction. Some start at $250 and some are $500, and other violations can be as much as $2,000.

There have been citations issued to 126 businesses so far; 48 of those since the beginning of May, after the expansion of retailers allowed to open for curbside pickups.

The cited businesses include bars that allowed dine-in, gyms, yoga studios, hookah lounges, tobacco shops, hair salons, sporting goods stores and beauty supply stores.

"This is a very difficult time for us because we deal with businesses all the time," Escareno said. "All of the businesses are hurting right now. The fact that they are closed means they are not making any money. But it is also not fair if all the retailers are required to be closed, just general retail, and then one retailer down that block is open."

BACP added it is responding to concerns from communities and that consumer complaints have resulted in 1,868 in-person investigations of businesses.

"Non-essential businesses should know that they need to stay closed. If we get a complaint and we call you, and tell you to close, then we come out and you are open, you will be cited," said Escareno. "This is about safety, and about ensuring equity and making sure that we are all following the rules."

It's not just businesses under scrutiny. Three churches were recently ticketed by Chicago Police for holding worship services.

If you know of a business that's violating the order, you can alert BACP by calling 311 or going to its website.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.