By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — For the second weekend in a row, city officials have shut down an illegal party in Wicker Park, this time after more than 140 people packed the second floor of an apartment building without wearing masks or observing social distancing.

The city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) said a 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 at 1257 N. Milwaukee Av. early Saturday morning.

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Investigators found a line of people and a bouncer outside an event billed as the “Wicker Loft” on the second floor of the building. When they got inside, they found 142 people attending the event without face coverings, and without keeping a safe distance from others.

An illegal 142-person party was shut down in Wicker Park on Dec. 5, 2020, for violating city and state COVID-19 restrictions. (Source: Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection)

The city issued multiple citations for egregious violations of COVID-19 regulations, and ordered the second floor of the building shut down for numerous building and fire code violations, including an obstructed rear exit, having no smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors, no fire escape, and other violations.

The city issued a total of eight citations; two for violating COVID-19 regulations, one for allowing indoor smoking, and five for various business license violations.

An illegal 142-person party was shut down in Wicker Park on Dec. 5, 2020, for violating city and state COVID-19 restrictions. (Source: Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection)

The Wicker Loft offers a lounge and bottle service, and a top-shelf champagne will run you $950.

“From what we’ve seen, it’s an organized event. There’s a bouncer letting people in,” said Kaitlin Doherty, who lives next door.

“It’s been a nightclub,” said Marty Heraty, who also lives next door. “We live next door to a nightclub.”

But Wicker Loft is not a nightclub or a business at all.

“It’s frustrating seeing people going there every single weekend without any regard to what’s really going on,” Doherty told CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar. “I think with COVID, it just makes it even more of an issue.”

The apartment where the event happened has been an ongoing problem for Doherty and Heraty. Last February, 25 guns were found and five people were arrested from the same unit at an illegal Airbnb party.

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“We’ve been trying for quite some time, and this just helps us know that our efforts haven’t gone to waste,” Doherty said.

Neighbors say they see parties happening in the area every week.

Gov. JB Pritzker said he was glad the city is enforcing the rules against indoor dining, drinking, and large public gatherings.

“People who are holding private parties, and who don’t get … fined, I think once again this is on them. I think people in their neighborhoods know who they are,” Pritzker said. “It’s a terrible way to treat your community, to have a party like this, to help spread the virus in that way, especially when we’re this close … to having vaccines available to everybody. Just hang on a little longer. You can do without a party for a couple of months while we get to saving people’s lives.”

The illegal party on Milwaukee Avenue was held just around the corner from another overcrowded party the city shut down over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, after 300 people packed the basement of a building at 1612 W. Division St. on Nov. 29.

That party, promoted by The Vault/All Access, was held at the former site of a bar that has been out of business for several years. 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.

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.

The city said BACP conducted a total of 152 investigations for complaints of COVID-19 violations this past weekend (between Dec. 3 and Dec. 6), and issued citations to six other businesses:

  • Zapotlan Bar (3923-25 S. Kedzie Ave.), for allowing indoor alcohol consumption on Thursday;
  • River North Crossfit (330 W. Ontario St.), for conducting indoor fitness classes and patrons not wearing masks on Thursday;
  • Randy’s Lounge (7512 S. Cottage Grove Ave.), for holding an indoor event with 42 people eating and drinking without social distancing or face coverings on Friday;
  • Volare (201-05 E. Grand Ave.) for allowing indoor dining on Friday;
  • Firewater Saloon (6689-95 N. Oliphant Ave.) for allowing indoor dining on Friday;
  • Flava Luxx (2912 W. Madison St.) for holding an indoor event with 22 people eating and drinking without social distancing or face coverings on Saturday.

City officials said, since March, BACP has conducted 6,994 COVID-19 investigations, and issued citations to 344 businesses for violating regulations.

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CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar contributed to this report.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff