Chicago temporarily shuts down 5 restaurants for COVID-19 violations, owner call for leniency

Chicago News

CHICAGO  — After the City of Chicago shut down five restaurants this weekend for breaking its rules for Phase 4 of reopening, a restaurant owner said Tuesday they only skirted the rules because they are hemorrhaging money and need help.

Barba Yianni in Lincoln Square was one of five businesses closed and ticketed by Chicago’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department this weekend for various COVID-19 violations.

Although they were able to reopen the next day, officials warned another violation could lead to fines up to $10,000, and even permanent closure.

While the Greek restaurant was shut down for being over capacity and open past midnight Saturday, owner Anas Ihmoud said he took a chance because he’s losing money every day. 

Imhoud said he makes his profit on liquor sales, which mainly happen after midnight. Now he has to close at midnight, last call is at 11 p.m. 

“It’s either at this point: hand the keys to my landlord or take the risk that has eventually shut me down and created all this hoopla,” Ihmoud said.

While a spokesperson for the city called the violations egregious, Ihmoud said he’s not a criminal, he’s just tens of thousands of dollars in the red and wants to keep his restaurant afloat.

“I’m trying to pay my rent, bills, staff money, and mine,” Ihmoud said. “So when that happens nothing good comes out of it.” 

The city says most businesses are in compliance with its regulations, arguing they ensure the safety of patrons and employees. If businesses are still struggling, the city is set to take applications for the next round of financial aid through the Together Now Fund.

Juanita’s Restaurant on the Southwest Side closed for the same reasons as Barba Yianni. Retro Cafe on the Northwest Side, Estrella Blanca Nightclub on the West Side and Second Time Around — all were closed for the night and received tickets.

In addition to calling for later hours, Ihmoud and other businesses applied for a permit to close Lincoln Avenue at Lawrence on weekends so they could have more outdoor seating.

“Let us have an outside café into the street; let us extend it,” Ihmoud said.

A spokesperson for 47th ward Alderman Matt Martin said he supports extending outdoor seating into the parking lane on Lincoln Avenue, but other businesses are against it.

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