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Taste of Chicago to be all food, no music, Mayor Daley says

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Taste of Chicago can reverse huge losses without charging an admission fee — and even turn a profit — by focusing exclusively on food, Mayor Daley said Tuesday.

“What we’re trying to do is make the Taste of Chicago get back to ... the Taste of Chicago — not all the other things around it. We’re trying to get it back to what it was originally. It’s a Taste of Chicago. That’s what we’re trying to rebuild without costing you or taxpayers more money,” Daley said.

“Originally, we never had an admission fee. ... The cost [escalated]. All the musicials got so costly that they put money into the musicals forgetting it’s Taste of Chicago. It’s not a music fest.”

Pressed on whether the Taste would be food alone, without any music, Daley said, “Yes. That’s what you do because it was always free. It will always be free.”

Last week, Daley’s plan to privatize the Taste and six other lakefront festivals to stem $7 million in losses over the last three years fell flat on its face.

City Hall rejected a lone bidder’s revised proposal to charge a $10 admission fee to the Taste.

Celebrate Chicago LLC had initially proposed a $20 entrance fee with $10 rebated to patrons in the form of food and beverage tickets. The proposed fee was cut in half to appease Daley, but it was not enough.

The partnership included the Illinois Restaurant Association and two of the biggest names in live entertainment: JAM Productions and AEG Live.

Asked whether the city now intends to go it alone, Daley said, “No, no, no. ... The cost of government goes up. ... Not-for-profits, other institutions can manage it much better. Government has a difficult [time] ... Government can’t do everything you want it to do. ... That’s why you have partnerships with non-for-profits and profit organizations.”

The Illinois Restaurant Association — run by Sheila O’Grady, Daley’s longest-serving chief-of-staff — has managed the event’s food and beverage operations for the last 27 years.

It was not clear whether the partnership Daley envisions going forward would revive that agreement.

O’Grady said she has so far had no discussions with City Hall about continuing to manage food and beverage operations at the Taste.

But, she said, “Taste of Chicago is a wonderful franchise that’s been copied all over the world. It’s a wonderful event. If the city were to ask for our assistance, we would be more than willing to assist in continuing Taste of Chicago.”



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