People

Chicago Operator Contends With Difficult Laws

Martin Romjue
Posted on September 4, 2019
Paula DeBiasi, executive director of the Illinois Limousine & Bus Association (ILLBA) and owner-operator of Chicago CoachWorks. (LCT file photo)

Paula DeBiasi, executive director of the Illinois Limousine & Bus Association (ILLBA) and owner-operator of Chicago CoachWorks. (LCT file photo)

[This is the 14th episode and final video in a recurring series of educational interviews by LCT editors Martin Romjue, Lexi Tucker, and Jim Luff]

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — How would your business fare with onboard security guard requirements for 15+ passenger vehicles, a hefty hike in the minimum wage, and mandatory pre-scheduling of employees at least two weeks in advance?

These are the types of rules that take up the energy of Paula DeBiasi, executive director of the Illinois Limousine & Bus Association (ILLBA) and owner-operator of Chicago CoachWorks. DeBiasi talked with LCT contributing editor Jim Luff during the International LCT Show in March for insights on tough city ordinances. Her situation provides another example of why strong state associations are needed to protect operator livelihoods.

The 70-member ILBA reflected an industry reality when it added “Bus” to its name, since the membership has been moving toward shuttles and buses at an increasing rate, DeBiasi says. At least a quarter are now running buses, including party limo buses that have attracted controversy in the city.

One of the big challenges for DeBiasi and Chicago-area operators has been the strict new rules governing party buses, in response to a spate of shootings in recent years. In the fall of 2016, the City Council passed an ordinance that required operators operating 15-passenger or more vehicles to staff a security guard when going to destinations where alcohol was either being served or consumed onboard the vehicle.

After meeting with city officials to modify the law, operators ended up having to use licensed Illinois security guards who are unarmed, along with requirements for vehicle-related documents and disclosures to consumers, DeBiasi says.

“So many of our limo companies have been experiencing challenges and loss of groups because when you add $40-$50-an-hour security for a charter, that can present a huge cost on multi-day trips or multi-day events, I should say,” DeBiasi says. “So, recently, we have been working and collaborating with local DMCs in retail to join us in the discussions with the city officials.”

The ILBA meets periodically with city officials to see how they can ease regulations.

“A lot of times associations feel they need to fight it alone,” she says. “But our president and a number of our members realize we needed to bring the DMCs along, so the city could actually hear about the impact. Now, they're hearing from those who book the larger events. I think it's been eye-opening.”

Illinois operators are also contending with minimum wage laws, which will raise the minimum pay to $15 an hour.

“Along with that, we've been recently informed the city council is considering what we call a restrictive scheduling ordinance which we hear is occurring in several cities, but Chicago’s is apparently the most restrictive. What it basically means is employers with 50 or more employees making less than $50,000 a year have to submit work schedules two weeks in advance to employees. It's very challenging and has an impact on our membership, larger operators in particular. So it's not only an issue for employers who will get fined if they try to change the schedule and don't follow the course of law, but it's also difficult for employees.

Twenty-four associations in the Chicago area have joined the effort to combat the measure.

MORE: Complete 2019 LCT video education series here

Related Topics: 2019 LCT video education series, Chicago operators, city regulations, criminal incidents, ILCT 2019, Illinois Limousine Association, Illinois operators, industry leaders, Jim Luff, law enforcement, limo associations, limo buses, party buses, passenger safety, security, state regulations, video

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Anuj Patel

     | about 3 months ago

    Paula is the best! She is one of the hardest working people in our industry!

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