Not unlike the rooftop dilemma of the early 2010s, this new open air plaza on the Clark side of Wrigley Field is lingering on through a forest of negotiations, disagreements, city involvements, statements and more.
Our latest check in on June 3 captured Tom Ricketts’ thoughts on the plaza and the surrounding conflict between the Cubs, the City and Alderman Tom Tunney(‘s ward).
On the Cubs side, Ricketts pleaded the case of his family’s legacy, that the open air plaza was to be a family-friendly area, not a 24/7 beer garden. That they want to have all kinds of events and turn it and Wrigley Field into a world class destination. On the other side, Alderman Tom Tunney responded with his concerns about excessive noise, booze, and negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood and businesses. While he would certainly allow some some “fun” to be had, Tunney wants to limit the Cubs’ patio plans so as not to disrupt the neighborhood.
But there are further updates. Speaking to a crowd of Lakeview residents (including Tunney) this week, Cubs Vice President of Community Affairs Mike Lufrano revealed some more details about how the Cubs planned on using the plaza while meeting the criteria and rules of the City. Below are some of those details and other bits relayed by DNA Info and Crain’s Chicago Business, alongside some thoughts of my own.
First, Lufrano addressed the security plans for the plaza. The team said that it would put several security rules in place, including:
- A security staff and camera surveillance for the plaza 24/7, 365.
- Bollards and planters near the streets to prevent cars from coming on the plaza.
- Stationing security personnel at all plaza entrances when alcohol is being served, while preventing alcohol from leaving the plaza.
- Hiring additional security guards for all team events and keeping them there for one hour afterward.
Following the plans for sound security, the Cubs addressed other proposed guidelines that came as part of their liquor license application:
- Using plaza security to prohibit “aggressive loitering” on the plaza when no events are occurring.
- Daily cleans of the plaza, regardless of the existence of an event.
- Limitations on the hours of operations and alcohol sales, depending on plaza activity, time of year and pursuant to the license (of course, the details of this are a clear point of contention)
- Bathroom facilities would be made available inside the stadium and in the Cubs’ new office building overlooking the plaza.
- The Cubs would regularly attend community meetings to help address issues stemming from the plaza.
Despite those self-imposed restrictions and expectations, Tunney is not convinced and continues to argue against the city’s approval of the Cubs’ liquor license application. According to Tunney, the license will give the Cubs the freedom to sell alcohol year-round if they choose to, even if they say now that they won’t.
That’s quite a stance, though, isn’t it? If an already-existent city liquor license – presumably drafted and agreed upon by city officials – allows a business to act in a certain way, why should that business be expected to do anything less? The fact that the Cubs are artificially limiting themselves in any way should appear generous if the license is delivered (remember: Tunney does not control the liquor license approval/denial). But in Tunney’s defense (and opinion), the license was designed for smaller-scale venues. The average patio in Chicago, he suggested, holds 50 people (maxing out at around 240). The Cubs patio would hold something closer to 6,000.
And further, the Cubs are being slightly vague in their plans and expectations for year-round use. “I don’t have a specific number, but it’s less than 365,” Lufrano said. “We know in the winter months, there’s not going to be a whole lot of activity.” From quotes like that, you can begin to understand Tunney’s trepidation. There are a whole lot of unknowns and promises that the Cubs don’t necessarily have to guarantee. From a compromise/open-discussion standpoint that can be difficult to overcome.
So, I hate to keeping taking this position, but I can see multiple sides to this debate*. While I tend to lean on having as much fun as possible all the time always, I can understand Tunney’s duty to represent the business and members of his community. In the end, there’s a heck of a lot of gray area, and the each side is doing right by themselves.
Also like usual, I’m not sure I see a clear compromise forthcoming, at least until Tunney drops some particulars from his proposal. Specifically, the Cubs have taken issue with 1.) Only ticket holders can enter the plaza, 2.) alcohol sales will be cut off after the 7th inning or one hour before the end of events, and 3.) special events require a permit and would be limited to eight per year.
And if you live in the Lakeview area (like me!), you have until 5:00 p.m. on Thursday to submit comments on the liquor license. Following that the liquor commissioner could approve the license, require the Cubs to submit a plan of operation, or deny it flat out. Either way, some news should be coming soon.
*[Brett: You should never hate to take that position, Michael. The world is gray, and there is almost always more than one reasonable view to an issue.]
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