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26 Citations Have Been Issued To 13 Chicago Businesses For Violating COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate -- How Does Enforcement Work?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The city's new proof of COVID-19 vaccination mandate for restaurants, gyms, and certain entertainment venues has resulted in 26 citations in a period of a week and a half.

So how is it being enforced, and what has that enforcement looked like? CBS 2's Tara Molina has been tracking this issue for weeks, and received new information from the city and county Wednesday.

Posters and notices went up on every Chicago restaurant, gym, and entertainment venue serving food and drinks early this month, when the vaccination mandate went into effect on Monday, Jan. 3.

We heard concerns from business owners in the days leading up to the mandate – so how has it been since? We've heard mixed reviews.

"We're just trying to comply, keep our license, and not get fined," Leonard DeFranco, owner of Hawkeye's Bar and Grill at 1458 W. Taylor St., told CBS 2's Shardaa Gray on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

So we turned to the city and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection – the office responsible for compliance, licensing, and fines.

So far, they've cited 13 businesses in the city failing to abide by the requirement, issuing 26 citations in the week and a half the requirement has been in place.

BACP would not do an interview with us, or tell us if they've checked any businesses randomly. They did say all of their investigations are driven by complaints - but would not say how many 311 complaints they've received or many investigations they've conducted.

BACP said they can issue two citations to any business that violates the requirement, clarifying the 13 businesses cited 26 times since the requirement went into effect.

The department also said investigations can be conducted covertly, but investigators always will identify themselves.

"January is always a tough month for restaurants here in the city of Chicago," said Sam Toia, president and chief executive officer of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Toia said his organization has heard about enforcement from Chicago-area owners, but with no specifics.

"They're frustrated," he said.

Toia told Molina the Illinois Restaurant Association's hope is that the mandate doesn't need to be in place much longer.

"We're very happy to see the positivity rate going down, starting to flatten out again," Toia said. "We were on the phone yesterday with some of the mayor's upper management folks and we did bring this up. And hopefully by the beginning of February, maybe we won't have the vaccine mandates in place."

Cook County has a similar mandate in place right now, but would not say how many complaints they've received or how many citations they've given. But a spokesperson for the county's department of public health told me they refer complaints to individual municipalities with the health inspector available to follow-up.

The following is the full statement from the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection:

"The enforcement of the Vaccine Requirement is no different than the Mask Mandate, previous public health orders, or general operations.

"Similar to the Mask Mandate, establishments who violate the Vaccine Requirement can be issued two-citations for violating the BACP and Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) requirements under City of Chicago Public Health Order No. 2021-02.

"BACP investigations are complaint driven. Investigations can be conducted covertly if necessary, BACP Investigators will identify themselves whether a complaint is addressed overtly or covertly. BACP investigators always carry official City identification.

"When the BACP Enforcement team investigates an establishment, no matter the reason for the investigation whether complaint or as general operations, they will ensure the establishment is abiding by Public Health Orders and the Municipal Code of Chicago.

"In addition to addressing complaints, the BACP Active Compliance Program (ACP), a proactive educational program that helps business owners/operators stay compliant through non-disciplinary consultations, will be informing and reminding covered location to abide by the Vaccine Requirement and the Mask Mandate.

"BACP reserves the right to issue enforcement based on the egregiousness of the violation found during the investigation. Enforcement can vary from a 1-day Notice to Correct to citations issued in real time. After an establishment is cited, the citation is either prosecuted at the Department of Administrative Hearings or referred to the Law Department for a hearing before the Mayor's License Discipline Commission.

"All are parts of a comprehensive effort to ensure compliance and hold businesses accountable to these safety regulations designed to keep all Chicagoans safe.

"The City created a Toolkit for Businesses & Employers that provides helpful information on how to verify vaccination status, checklists, and signage.

"Citizens are encouraged to contact 3-1-1 to report violations."

This is the statement from Cook County Public Health.

"If someone has a complaint we ask them to visit our website to complete proper form, followed by this procedure:

"If a complaint comes into the county, either we refer the complaint to the individual municipality, which would handle it using their own process or we would have a Cook County Department of Public Health inspector follow up.

"Our hope is always to resolve these issues in the interest of everyone's health, but a repeat offender could face penalties, as the discretion of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. An administrative hearing could result in fines or other penalties."

Finally, the city told us Tuesday that Howl at the Moon, 26 W. Hubbard St., had been cited for violating the vaccinate mandate. But the city later said they were mistaken, and the citation there was for the mask mandate.


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