Party's over: 17 Chicago party bus firms ordered to cease and desist

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - Seventeen party bus companies were ordered Monday to “cease and desist” after being accused of violating new regulations aimed at reining in rowdyism and violence and preventing them from turning into what one aldermen has called “rolling cemeteries.”

Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno said the 17 companies targeted during a joint operation by her department and Chicago Police were accused of a host of violations, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

They range from operating without a license or insurance and failing to hire security guards and install surveillance cameras when alcohol is present to ignoring the requirement to maintain a log of passengers served and stops made.

The targeted companies — and party bus operators issued 34 “administrative notices of violation” — face minimum fines of $1,000 for the first violation and up to $10,000 for repeat offenses.

At a news conference Monday at police headquarters, Escareno said the crackdown was aimed at taking “unlicensed operators and activity off the street in the interest of public safety.”

She also urged consumers to “beware” and make certain the party buses they hire are complying with the tough new ordinance approved by the City Council in mid-April.

“If you are contracting services with an unlicensed operator, your trip will be shut down. … When somebody is not properly licensed, you can lose your money,” Escareno said.

“Consumers need to know that they are putting themselves and others at risk when they do business with unlicensed operators.”

Tony Riccio, the Chicago Police Department’s chief of Organized Crime, said party buses have been a chronic problem.

“We’ve seen gangs — street gangs actually — rent some of these party buses to go bar-hopping essentially. They get off in areas [where] there’s other gangs established over there. … It would lead to fights on the street,” Riccio said.

“We had a shooting up on the North end of the city in the 24th District outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts that stemmed from problems on a charter bus maybe six months ago. So we do see a lot of problems and violence that stems from the fact that they were just completely unregulated.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised to crack down after 10 shootings and one homicides over the last two years and after three semi-automatic weapons were discovered on an overcrowded party bus. He had to settle for something short of an outright weapons ban because only the Illinois General Assembly can amend the state’s concealed-carry law by adding party buses to the no-guns category.

Party buses with 15 or more passengers that have alcohol on board or make interim stops where alcohol will be consumed were required to hire licensed security guards and install video cameras.

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