Chicago lakefront businesses worry over 2nd possible shutdown after coronavirus restrictions ignored by some

Mayor Lightfoot warns of lakefront shutdown after Montrose Beach party

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Sunday, August 9, 2020
Chicago lakefront businesses worry over 2nd possible shutdown after coronavirus restrictions ignored by some
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Castaways' general manager worries the lakefront bar and grill will again have to close.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On the first full weekend of reopening of Castaways Bar and Grill, the lakefront restaurant at North Avenue Beach could end up closing before it really gets a chance to open.

"It's been tough. It's been really, really hard on all restaurants on the beach," Castaways General Manager Juana Valdivia said.

Valdivia worries her eatery may not survive, if Mayor Lori Lightfoot makes good on her threat to shut down beach concessions a second time, after catching dozens of partygoers ignoring city rules and social distancing at Montrose Avenue Beach.

"There has been no one at North Avenue Beach, and I understand they're all down there but we shouldn't be at fault for them," Valdivia said.

Sunday, while vehicle traffic was limited to those with boat slip passes, workers installed fencing to deter large crowds from gathering in an area referred to as "The Peninsula."

The new restrictions come after hundreds reportedly attended a Saturday party, which the mayor crashed.

"I politely said please open our beaches, Lori," attendee Mick Montesi said. "And she looks at me and said, 'This is a pandemic.'"

A picture of the party shows the mayor and Montesi. He said he's the guy with his back to the camera.

Lightfoot threatened to shut the lakefront down again after the encounter.

The Chicagoan said gatherings happen there almost every weekend.

"I've done my part. I've socially distanced. I've been wearing a mask. I've been wearing gloves. I've done my part," Montesi said. "Come on enough is enough."

There were no problems Sunday, but some beachgoers aren't happy with the new rules.

"I'd love to be on the beach, so I'm a little disappointed that I can't be on the beach," William Simon said. "It's just that simple."

Fellow beachgoer Natalie Young said she feels like she's being punished.

"For the people breaking the rules, do something about it, but for the people who play by the rules, I don't think the whole city ought to be compromised."

And while, the Montrose Beach restrictions will remain in place indefinitely, so does the concern about another beach concessions shutdown.

"We've been waiting since May to open up," Valdivia said. "It's going to be really hard because we are not making it."

RELATED: Illinois COVID-19 cases surpass 2K for 2nd day in a row

Large crowds were seen packed all along the lakefront Saturday afternoon. An ABC7 viewer shared an image of another large group of people, not social distancing and many without face masks.

Chicago police turned multiple cars away from getting into Montrose Beach Saturday as officers told would-be beach- and park-goers it was closed. Crowds were also dispersed at the lakefront near Belmont after police started to clear the area.

The mayor's warning comes a day after the city gave the OK for 13 of Chicago's lakefront restaurants to reopen. Since beaches remain closed, customers will also have to stay off the sand.

RELATED: River North street dining expands, more lakefront restaurants reopen

Chicago restaurants east of Lake Shore Drive are now allowed to reopen with COVID-19 guidelines.

Chicago health officials said last week, social gatherings were the top cause driving up COVID-19 case numbers in the city.

The mayor followed up in a second social media post that she will be addressing the issue. Several squad cars were seen patrolling the lakefront Saturday evening.