Chicago Alderman Faces Thousands in Fines for Keeping His Restaurant Open for Indoor Dining

Chicago Alderman Faces Thousands in Fines for Keeping His Restaurant Open for Indoor Dining
Photo:KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP (Getty Images)

Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney is facing criticism after admitting to letting people eat inside of his restaurant ‘Ann Sather’ in violation of both city and state rules prohibiting indoor dining in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Illinois Governor Pritzker ordered indoor dining closed in Chicago on October 30, citing concerns over the city’s rising positivity rate, and they remain closed a little over a month later. Ann Sather is facing up to $10,500 in possible fines after a blog post outed Tunney and the restaurant for still allowing customers to dine-in. The blog post also alleged that Tunney was essentially operating a pandemic “speakeasy” with a password and a ‘VIP room’ for regulars—except instead of just serving liquor under the table, they were spreading a potentially deadly virus.

Tunney called keeping the restaurant open for indoor dining an “error in judgment.”

“We’ve been sporadically letting some people in, regulars at the restaurant, to accommodate them from time to time,” Tunney said Monday. “It’s done. It will not continue, as of today.”

Unlike some restaurant owners whose desires to keep their businesses open stem from fears of losing their livelihood and their only source of income, Tunney also receives a salary for his position as Alderman of the 44th ward. So basically, Tunney abused his power and influence to keep his restaurant open, putting the restaurant’s staff at unnecessary risk, and he didn’t even need the money. Sounds like a responsible representative to me!

Eater Chicago reports that in his position as chair of Chicago’s zoning committee, Tunney has also influenced policies that affect the city’s food industry. Specifically, he’s shaped the city’s guidelines around food trucks, which are some of the most stringent in the country and have been criticized for making it difficult for small businesses to succeed.

In the words of Chicago restaurant and food truck owner Shaun Podgursky:

“Seeing this news as a food truck owner who has had to scrape a living out the past seven years because of the Draconian laws written by this person, while watching other cities like Austin, Los Angeles, and even Indianapolis thrive is really painful. [Tunney] literally kiboshed entrepreneurship for people with limited investment opportunity, many of them people of color or with immigrant backgrounds. Shame!”

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