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City moves to let Cubs sell beer in Wrigley Field plaza

Updated: December 28, 2013 6:21AM



The Cubs would be allowed to sell beer and wine from kiosks at an open-air plaza adjacent to a renovated Wrigley Field — and fans would be allowed to bring drinks in plastic cups to the plaza — in the latest in a string of concessions to the team.

Local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) on Tuesday introduced the ordinance to a City Council that’s preparing to give the Cubs the go-ahead to take another 10 feet of street and sidewalk and sell advertising on a “branding arch” over Clark Street.

Tunney’s new ordinance applies to 99-year-old Wrigley and all other stadiums with capacities exceeding 30,000.

“It says, if you are a licensed brick-and-mortar part of the stadium, you’ll have an opportunity to have a sports venue license to be able to either transfer a drink from inside in a plastic container or to serve beer and wine kiosk-like on the plaza,” Tunney said.

Fans would be allowed to enter and exit the ballpark. But fans leaving the open-air plaza would not be permitted to leave with drinks in their hands.

“This is an issue about how to manage the entire experience around the stadium. Of course, we’re always worried about public safety. But then there’s a responsibility that [comes with being] a licensed operator. Your license will be to the brick-and-mortar portion of it, and you’ll have a sports venue license,” he said. “The same rules and regulations of running the facility and responsibility to the public is paramount. You have skin in the game.”

In order to qualify for the new “sports venue license” to sell drinks on the plaza, you have to be a “licensed food and beverage operator” in the stadium or in the hotel and office building the Cubs plan to build adjacent to the stadium, Tunney said.

The ordinance would allow the plaza to operate year-round — when the Cubs are playing at Wrigley and when they’re not in town. But the plaza would be required to close down at 11 p.m. on weekdays and at midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Outdoor concerts would be subject to existing noise restrictions, with limitations on noise levels that can be heard more than 100 feet away from the plaza.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the team hopes to create a town square of sorts in the open-air plaza. The Cubs hope to fill the space with farmers markets, a winter ice-skating rink, movies in the park and live music.

“We know these activities will help keep Wrigleyville a thriving neighborhood and will contribute to the local Chicago economy, while enhancing the quality of life for Lakeview neighbors,” Green wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The new ordinance is the latest in a string of City Hall concessions to the team that have prompted Wrigleyville residents to call Emanuel the “Cubs’ most valuable player” for 2013.

Last week, the Chicago Plan Commission infuriated Wrigleyville residents by authorizing the Cubs to take an additional 10 feet of street and sidewalk to enlarge the stadium footprint to accommodate wider aisles, more concessions and a larger Budweiser deck.

Tunney acknowledged that the “Sheffield experience will be different” thanks to the revised stadium renovation plan. But he argued that the Cubs are prepared to offer parking in team lots on non-game days to residents who will lose nearly 60 street spaces.

Cubs Vice President and General Counsel Mike Lufrano has called the ad-bearing branding arch over Clark a fair trade-off for the pedestrian bridge scrapped at Tunney’s behest. There’s a similar bridge bearing the White Sox logo over 35th Street near U.S. Cellular Field.

As for the claim that Emanuel has been the Cubs’ 2013 MVP, Lufrano said, “Remember, this is $300 million of private investment in the ballpark — $500 million overall in the community. It’s really unprecedented in our industry to have a project like this entirely privately funded.”

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has said repeatedly he won’t begin construction on his $500 million plan to renovate Wrigley and develop the land around it until rooftop club owners agree not to sue to block two massive outfield signs needed to bankroll the project.

Email: fspielman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @fspielman



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