By Charlie De Mar

CHICAGO (CBS) — City officials shut down an illegal underground party over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, after 300 people packed the basement of a building in Wicker Park without wearing masks.

A city task force formed to crack down on large gatherings prohibited by the state’s and city’s COVID-19 restrictions responded to a complaint about an illegal party promoted by The Vault/All Access early Sunday in the basement at 1612 W. Division St, according to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP).

READ MORE: Police Officer Responding To Shooting, Struck By Bullet Fired By 15-Year-Old Gunshot Victim

As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, the city has done about 900 investigations at bars and restaurants all over the city in just the last month – handing out about 20 citations.

The worst offense was at the Wicker Park location – the former site of a bar that has been out of business for several years.

Police, building inspectors, and BACP investigators found approximately 300 people attending a party while ignoring social distancing, and no one wearing masks. Officials said the city issued five cease and desist orders to The Vault/All Access for illegal business activity; as well as nine citations for violating COVID-19 regulations, including exceeding indoor capacity, no social distancing, no masks, failure to have proper business licenses, allowing smoking indoors, and operating sparklers indoors. The Buildings Department also issued a closure order due to the illegal business not having smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, or fire extinguishers.

“While the vast majority of Chicago’s businesses are doing the right thing and following the COVID-19 regulations to keep Chicagoans and their employees safe, it is incredibly disheartening to see some establishments continue to egregiously and blatantly disregard the guidelines and put our entire community at risk,” BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno said in a statement. “Actions like this are a slap in the face to the thousands of businesses and millions of Chicagoans that are making sacrifices every day to keep our city safe, and we will continue cracking down on this inexcusable activity.”

READ MORE: World's Smallest Flying Structure Developed By Northwestern Engineers

The city slapped a big orange sticker on the door proclaiming the Division Street site to be off limits.

(Source: Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection)

“Really just anger. You know, the whole thing just seems ridiculous,” said Kyle Sneed. “I don’t even know how that is possible right now to pull off.”

Sneed lives in the neighborhood and is president of the Wicker Park Committee.

“To me, this was just very, very bold decision to put people at risk to try and make some money,” he said.

According to published reports, the basement at 1612 W. Division St. was once home to The Bedford, a cocktail lounge and restaurant inside an old bank vault, but the business closed in 2017.

City officials said BACP conducted a total of 93 investigations over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, including 14 as part of the task force with CPD and the Buildings Department.

Since the state halted indoor dining and bar service in Chicago on Oct. 30 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, BACP has conducted 877 investigations, and issued 20 citations and 54 notices of correction to bars, restaurants, and other businesses for illegally allowing indoor dining and/or drinking. The city has issued one-day closure orders to nine businesses during that time, four of which later were issued long-term closure orders for egregious violations of virus restrictions:

    • Chicago Sports Complex (2600 W. 35th St.) – Hosting a party with over 600 attendees, no face coverings or social distancing (establishment also issued a long-term closure order requiring them to remain closed until BACP approves a plan for reopening);
    • Wildberry Pancake (196 E. Pearson St.) – Repeatedly allowing indoor dining despite multiple Notices to Correct and Citations (establishment also issued a long-term closure order requiring them to remain closed until BACP approves a plan for reopening);
    • The Ballroom (6351-59 S. Cottage Grove Ave.) – Hosting a party with over 200 attendees, no face coverings or social distancing (establishment also issued a long-term closure order requiring them to remain closed until BACP approves a plan for reopening);
    • Fat Fish Bar & Grill (234-236 W. 31st St.) – Egregiously violating social distancing and face coverings requirements on outdoor patio (establishment also issued a long-term closure order requiring them to remain closed until BACP approves a plan for reopening);
    • Black Cat Lounge (1640 W. 115th St.) – Patrons drinking indoors, no face coverings or social distancing;
    • The Delta (1745 W. North Ave.) – Egregiously violating social distancing and face coverings requirements on outdoor patio;
    • Mariscos La Diabla (4222-24 W. 63rd St.) – Patrons eating indoors, no face coverings or social distancing;
    • Effe Inc (4216 W. 63rd St.) – Patrons eating indoors, no face coverings or social distancing;
    • Linda’s Place (1044 W. 51st St.) – Patrons eating indoors, no face coverings or social distancing.

“I get angry about that, especially when I think of all the other folks that work in the industry and aren’t able to work,” Sneed said of the violators.

As of late Monday, the owner of the Division Street building could be on the hook for the violation. So far, only the organizer has been cited.

MORE NEWS: Ed's Driveway: Volkswagen ID.4

Also From CBS Chicago:

Charlie De Mar