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

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 at preventing buses 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.

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.

PARTY’S OVER?: Alderman wants to crack down on rowdy party-bus patrons

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.

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.”

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said he was “happy to partner” with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to pass the tougher regulations and he’s “glad to see the new ordinance being aggressively enforced.”

“In recent years, there have been far too many incidents involving alcohol, drugs and guns on these party buses. The new law, coupled with aggressive enforcement should help finally address this serious issue in very short order,” Reilly wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

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