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City Closes West Side Art Gallery For Violating COVID-19 Rules; Officials Find 'High Level Of Compliance' As Indoor Dining Returns

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As restaurants and bars reopened for limited indoor dining across the city this weekend, city officials said inspectors "found a high level of compliance" with COVID-19 rules, citing only one business for hosting dozens of customers without social distancing.

Indoor dining at bars and restaurants had been prohibited under state virus mitigation rules since late October, before the city moved to Tier 1 regulations on Saturday, allowing for indoor service to resume.

Under the new rules, indoor dining and bar service will be allowed with a capacity limit of the lesser of 25 people or 25% of normal capacity per room, and no more than four people per table, with tables spaced at least six feet apart. In addition, bars must serve food in order to offer indoor service. Bars and restaurants also must be closed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and reservations are limited to two hours.

Other loosened rules under Tier 1 include gyms and fitness centers expanding to 50% capacity, while still requiring masks and social distancing. Capacity limits for meetings, events, and other social gatherings also would expand from a maximum of 10 people to a limit of 25 people or 25% of overall room capacity, whichever is less.

During that first weekend with limited indoor dining, the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection conducted 69 investigations regarding COVID-19 regulations, and issued only one citation.

The city ordered The Drip G, an art gallery at 5529 W. Chicago Ave. in the Austin neighborhood, to shut down over the weekend, after inspectors found 79 customers eating and drinking inside without social distancing.

BACP officials said no other violations of Tier 1 mitigations were found.

"The return of limited indoor dining in Chicago is a significant milestone in our fight against the COVID-19 virus and a huge win for our bars and restaurants," BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno said in a statement. "However, in order to keep moving forward, we need all of our businesses to commit to following the safety precautions designed to keep their employees and patrons safe. The high level of compliance that we saw this weekend is a sign that our businesses are committed to operating responsibly and I look forward to continued compliance as we slowly and carefully reopen."

Since March, the city has conducted 8,236 investigations into reports of businesses violating COVID-19 restrictions, and has issued 417 citations. Violators face fines of up to $10,000 for violating COVID-19 restrictions. Repeat violators could face orders to close.

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