Chicago bar shut down, fined for breaking coronavirus rules

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is not messing around, hitting a Chicago bar with a hefty fine and forcing it to close early for breaking coronavirus reopening rules.

But now, a co-owner of the bar is speaking with FOX 32 about what happened. He says it was not their fault.

The Wise Owl Drinkery & Cookhouse was issued immediate closure orders by the City of Chicago both Saturday and Sunday evenings and now one of the co-owners says the fines they face could put them out of business.

The city says Wise Owl on South Racine Avenue egregiously and blatantly disregarded reopening requirements.

“I think that’s taken out of context,” said co-owner Andy Gowin, who disagrees with the shutdown. “I believe that both nights the task force was coming in, we were already closing up for the night. We can’t control what the customers do after we call last call.”

The city says the Wise Owl was operating over capacity and failed to maintain social distancing, have patrons wear masks and stay seated.

Gowin says those are difficult to monitor.

“If people are going to get up and walk to another table, it’s really hard to talk to these customers, to tell them they need to put on a mask every time,” he said.

The orders required the Wise Owl to immediately close both nights. It also received four citations, each with a fine up to $10,000.

“If we have to indeed pay those fines, it’s gonna possibly put us out of business,” Gowin said.

The city also denied the Wise Owl's expanded outdoor dining permit, which is why tables in their parking lot are now vacant and off limits.

Gowin says after Sunday’s incident, additional staff has been brought on to monitor that customers follow social distancing guidelines from here on out.

“We just, we’re a small business in Chicago that is trying to stay open,” he said.

The city says while the closure orders were issued for Saturday and Sunday evenings of this past weekend only, it is also pursuing additional disciplinary actions.