Chicago hotels would be responsible for monitoring and restricting access to off-limits areas under a measure aldermen advanced Tuesday in response to the death of Kenneka Jenkins in a walk-in freezer at a Rosemont hotel.
Hotels would need to install signs warning guests to keep out of “non-guest areas,” including kitchens, laundry rooms, stockrooms, loading docks, unoccupied ballrooms, closed pools and other parts of the facilities under the ordinance, which passed the Finance Committee Tuesday. Hotels also would need to install alarms or emergency release mechanisms on the exits of off-limits enclosures like freezers where someone could get locked in.
That’s in response to the death of Jenkins, 19, whose body was discovered Sept. 10 inside a freezer at the Crowne Plaza hotel in suburban Rosemont. The Cook County medical examiner’s office determined Jenkins died of hypothermia from exposure to cold in the walk-in freezer.
Jenkins had attended a party in a room at the hotel and wasn’t found until nearly 24 hours after her disappearance, after repeated pleas to the hotel and police by her family. Surveillance videos later released by police show Jenkins, alone, wandering through a kitchen area near the freezer not long after she disappeared.
“It’s clear that there ought to be adequate warnings and that the hotel should take responsibility for those areas of the hotel where guests may find themselves able to enter,” said Ald. Edward Burke, 14th.
If any guests get hurt or killed in such off-limits areas, the city Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection would consider whether to suspend or revoke the hotel’s license. Fines for not having the proper signs and mechanisms in place would range from $1,000 to $2,500 per day.