Have we reached the Obsessive Outdoor Plaza Watch status yet?
If not, we soon will, because this story continues to get a little bit weirder, a little bit more frustrating, and – for this humble internet blogger – a little bit clearer in terms of where I stand.
According to multiple reports (CBS Chicago, DNA Info, Chicago Sun Times), Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Tom Tunney have released a joint statement regarding a potentially agreed-upon compromise for the new rules of the Cubs outdoor plaza. Good news, right?! Well, if you reread that sentence again, you’ll notice that the joint statement and aforementioned compromise is missing one key component: The Chicago Cubs.
Indeed, the two government officials have released a statement indicating that a compromise has been made regarding the rules of the plaza – including liquor sales, event limits and hours of operations (you know, all of the things that no one has been able to agree upon yet) – that the Cubs have (surprise!) not yet agreed to. So … who exactly is compromising here? At minimum, it seems, the Cubs are not on board.
“We were unaware of an announcement of a deal or a news release being issued,” spokesman Julian Green told DNA Info. In fact, one day earlier, Green told The Sun-Times that the Cubs and the city/neighborhood were “miles from a deal.” So what does this compromise entail and where exactly is this coming from?
According to CBS Chicago, the “compromise,” is effectively a final set of rules/regulations for the plaza – that will be voted on later in the month by City Council – which includes the following key points:
- During day games, the Cubs can sell beer and wine on the plaza (no hard alcohol) until one hour after the game ends.
- During night games, the Cubs can sell beer and wine up until the game ends, but not after.
- Only fans with game tickets would be allowed to enter the plaza on game days. (Oh, joy.)
- The Cubs would be allowed to hold just 12 special events a year and they must end no later than 10:00 on weekdays and 11:00 pm on weekends.
- The ordinance will sunset after three years.
On the first two bullet points, my opinion is split. Although I’m mostly a beer drinker myself (especially so at baseball games), I would prefer if the hard liquor option was available, especially for the special events. That said, Tom Ricketts has indicated a willingness to forego hard liquor in the past, so, whatever; I’m mostly in support of an actual compromise. However, I can’t say I’m thrilled about the cessation of liquor sales one hour after game time (during day games) and just until the game ends (during night games). Even still, that reluctance pales in comparison to my feelings about the third bullet point.
Why I would need a ticket (to a game or event) to be allowed to enjoy this plaza is beyond me. Worse, it might be among the chief deal breakers for the Cubs* and most obvious head nod to the local Wrigleyville bars for the City (an increasingly justified concern). In fact, the existence of that rule is the only reason the first two bullets make any sense. If this were an indoor beer garden/recreational area – like the DraftKings Fantasy Sports Zone (formerly Captain Morgan club) – aligning the liquor rules with the stadium would make sense … but I don’t think that’s what it was ever intended to be. So prohibiting fans without a ticket and stoping the sale of alcohol by game end feels like a pretty unsavory double dip.
The city and its mayor seems to think otherwise.
“This compromise plan is the product of long negotiations and it reflects my long-held goals of allowing the Cubs to improve Wrigley, but only in a way that protects the neighborhood and residents’ quality of life,” the mayor said via spokesman Grant Klinzman. The Cubs, on the other hand, feel that their $750 million investment is being artificially restricted in its returns by rules and regulations that other surrounding business do not have to deal with.
Either way, the proposed ordinance (the compromise), will be introduced to the City Council on June 22 and the Mayor is applying public pressure on the Cubs to take it and be happy. In fact, in an article at the Chicago Sun-Times, Fran Spielman relays the Mayor’s thoughts on the matter that, “sometimes you’ve just got to take ‘yes’ for an answer.” Which I find to be entirely misleading.
By publicly announcing that the Cubs should just take, “yes,” for an answer, the Mayor is effectively suggesting that the Cubs have gotten everything they’ve ever wanted, but are still asking for more. When, according to Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, all the Cubs actually want is the originally agreed upon proposal from 2013. Coming from the mayoral platform, those comments could shift public opinion tremendously, providing the City with the final ammunition they need to impose these regulations on the Cubs.
Despite my clear and intentional opinion on the matter, I remain wholly and fully in favor of an actual compromise being reached. Despite my love for the Cubs and their ability to make money in any way possible, while providing additional entertainment, the Alderman and the Mayor are elected officials that do represent constituents – many of whom feel quite differently than I do.
That said, I, too, live in Alderman Tom Tunney’s ward, and as a member of the neighborhood, would love an outdoor plaza. I’d love to enjoy it on game days, and maybe even stop by on other days, as well (in fact, its existence and availability would likely get me to enjoy the surrounding business with greater frequency than I do now). I’d like to go there with a ticket, or without one; and, I’d like to stay as late as the already established (drafted, amended and voted on by constituents and government leaders) outdoor liquor license allows – not a minute more or a minute less.
I’d like to ensure that the surrounding business and neighbors aren’t negatively affected, while not infringing on the rights of another very successful and city-unifying business such as the Cubs. But most importantly, I’d like both sides to stop putting us, the fans, in the middle of it. Week after week, I find myself having to defend the benefits of a true compromise. A real compromise isn’t getting most of what you want, while giving up a little. It’s the other way around. Both sides need to find a way to figure this out quickly and painlessly, while not using someone like me – a fan of the Cubs and a dedicated/supportive member of my community – as a pawn in support of either side.
However, I remain optimistic, as it is my true nature. I believe in my city’s and my team’s ability to rise above mediocrity and accomplish what each is truly meant to: serve us – the people, the fans. Call me an idealist, call me naive. That’s what I’ll continue to root for.
As always, I will continue to update you as this story unfolds.
*[Brett: From the first whiff of this possible plaza restriction a few months ago, I’ve been quietly incensed about denying people access to the plaza on game days unless they have a ticket for the game. The game going on inside Wrigley Field. The game people will be watching inside Wrigley Field. The City is trying to force the Cubs to have their own ballpark compete with the proposed plaza for the limited pool of customers who’ve already paid for a ticket (and paid an enormous set of taxes, I might add) to go into the ballpark. This is utterly ludicrous, and completely neuters any semblance of enjoyability on the plaza during Cubs games. I have no doubt that’s precisely what certain constituencies want, but I’d hoped the plaza, in conjunction with the bars in the area – which I love – could be a gathering ground for fans with and without tickets (sometimes together with each other! because friendship!) during the season. That’s the “feel” of what the plaza was always supposed to be during the season. These rules instead will make the plaza simply an outdoor portion of the ballpark, and one with considerably more obstructed views.]