SKOKIE, IL — A Skokie event planner was responsible for organizing the large wedding at a north suburban hotel earlier this month in violation of state and local health orders, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health.
A and E Events, 9707 Ridgeway Ave., was identified as the planner of the Dec. 2 potential superspreader event at the Hilton Chicago/Northbrook that was condemned as "reckless and irresponsible" by public health officials. Hotel management issued an apology the next day.
Aviva Applebaum, president of A and E Events Inc., declined to comment when reached Monday.
According to a "facility order to disperse" issued Dec. 10 to A and E Events, company representatives confirmed to suburban public health officials that it planned the event.
"As the planner, A and E Events participated in the planning and execution of events for this wedding," the order said, "such as coordination of what would be taking place, and where within the hotel it was taking place, as well as awareness of details such as that indoor dining would be occurring, that the event would be over population capacity of 25 people, and that individual spacing allotted for at least six foot spacing between guests would not be achieved."
The crowded event was first reported by WBBM-TV, which broadcast images of an estimated 200 to 300 guests — with little social distancing and few face coverings.
The wedding was held two weeks after Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration announced a new set of mitigations, dubbed Tier 3, that have forbidden indoor dining, gatherings at hotels and conference centers and any social events with more than 25 people since Nov. 20.
"I understand that those people will go home or back into their communities and may infect other people," Pritzker said the day after the wedding. "This is very concerning to all of us at a moment when we have rampant COVID-19 throughout Illinois."
The festivities allegedly planned by the Skokie business coincided with Illinois' single-day record for number of COVID-19 deaths, as 238 people died from the virus that day.
“The hotel, restaurant, bride, groom, caterer and guests were all reckless and irresponsible. This event was in violation of the current COVID-19 Mitigationand should not have taken place,” said Rachel Rubin, senior public health medical officer and co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health, in a statement announcing the citations against the hotel.
Rubin recommended that everyone involved quarantine for 10 days and get tested to avoid spreading coronavirus in the community.
“I sincerely hope no one becomes sick or dies as a result of this event," she said.
Public health officials ordered A and E to cancel any further large events and not to enter into any contracts for large indoor events with more than 25 people while the tier 3 restrictions are still in place.
When Pritzker initially announced the newly formed third tier of restrictions, three days before they went into effect, state officials laid out a formula where new restrictions could be lifted by region if certain hospitalization and coronavirus positivity thresholds were met. The governor later said he would not consider lifting the restrictions until January at the earliest, regardless of COVID-19 metrics.
A and E Events was warned that further non-compliance with the orders could result in a class B misdemeanor and a fine of $1,000 per violation under .
The event planner is the first business in Skokie to be cited for non-compliance by the suburban health department, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health's website.
Patch also requested copies of the citations issued by Skokie's own health department on Dec. 15. As of Monday, the village had not provided any records or publicly identified any local violations.
Management of the Hilton Chicago/Northbrook hotel at 2855 Milwaukee Ave., which operates independently of the Hilton chain and, despite its name, is located in Prospect Heights, issued a statement after news of the wedding broke. It said the hotel's ownership was financially struggling during the pandemic.
"However, our hope to keep the hotel afloat and employees working should not outweigh health and safety," it said. "We are committed to working with state and local health authorities to ensure our hotel is abiding by all safety measures and mitigation guidelines."