Folks socializing and washing a car outside on the West Side on April 5 | Photo by Darius Griffin [The TRiiBE]

This story is published on in partnership with Free Spirit Media’s experimental “learning newsroom” program, The Real Chi.

Amid concerns and reports of Chicagoans congregating outside of liquor stores during the statewide “stay-at-home” order, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new public health order banning liquor sales after 9:00 p.m. each day. It will go into effect on Thursday (April 9).

The mayor made the announcement at a Wednesday (April 8) press conference, where she was joined by Chicago Police Department (CPD) Interim Supt. Charlie Beck and Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) Commissioner Rosa Escareno. 

“Like our closure of the Lakefront two weeks ago, this is not punitive, it’s protective,” Lightfoot said at the press conference.

Under the liquor sales curfew, Lightfoot said CPD officers will be given increased power to fine and arrest people in violation of the curfew. In conjunction with BACP, liquor and business licenses could also be revoked if necessary. 

Business owners can also be fined up to $10,000 if found in violation of the order, she added. 

“If you refuse to comply, and as I’ve said before: we’re not messing around with this. We will not hesitate to take even further action as needed,” Lightfoot said. 

The curfew has been set in place because many people have been gathering at stores that sell alcohol, said Lightfoot. To date, the city has issued 21 citations to eight businesses in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order, totaling $120,000 in fines.

Under the statewide stay-at-home order, issued by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to last through April 30, only essential businesses such as grocery stores, banks and laundromats can continue operating. However, the order has social distancing guidelines that all essential businesses must follow while in operation. 

At the press conference, Escareno said businesses receiving fines include a gym that remained open, a bar that continued to allow patrons to gather inside and a grocery store that didn’t follow social distancing guidelines. 

Escareno also noted that BACP has received more than 1,000 complaints by phone from residents dialing 3-1-1 to report violations of physical and social distancing.

“We are putting this curfew in place because too many individuals and businesses have been violating the stay-at-home order, an order that was put in place to keep us safe from this pandemic and to save lives,” Lightfoot said at the press conference. 

On Tuesday (April 7), as temperatures rose to nearly 80 degrees in some areas of Chicago, Lightfoot said police officers issued hundreds of dispersal orders. 

CPD interim Supt. Beck said 19 shooting incidents and six homicides occurred yesterday. One of the incidents included a shooting in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhoods, where multiple people were killed and 14 more were wounded, including a five-year-old girl, Lightfoot added. 

Beck also said a man was killed after being thrown under a Red Line train by other men on the platform. 

“Enough, enough, enough,” Lightfoot said. “Our whole city’s focus must be on saving lives from all public health crises, whether that’s the COVID-19 pandemic or gun violence.”