Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday framed up his proposal to charge Taste of Chicago festival goers more for concert tickets and food as a way to help the cash-strapped city keep throwing one of its premier summer parties.
The mayor also said he was not creating two classes of attendees at the traditionally egalitarian event with his plan to start charging for some lawn seats to Taste shows at the Petrillo Music Shell.
Emanuel pointed out that concertgoers will still be able to sit for free on some parts of the lawn during concerts, and argued he's modernizing Taste so it can continue and better reflect Chicago's new culinary sophistication at an event long synonymous with pizza, ice cream and giant turkey legs. After losing $1.3 million in 2012, Taste turned a small profit last year, according to the administration.
“We used to talk about scrapping (Taste) because you couldn't make a go of this,” he said. “We've actually shown that you can not only make the changes, modernize the Taste of Chicago, bring in the — because Chicago’s more than what it used to be, it's a culinary capital of the world. And now it's actually turned a little dollars.”
The mayor introduced an ordinance last week that would raise the price of the surcharge collected by the city for every strip of 12 food tickets at the yearly festival by 50 cents, from $2 to $2.50. That would increase the price of a 12-ticket strip to $8.50.
And Emanuel wants to double from $25 to $50 the cost of “premium” reserved seats at Petrillo for nightly music shows. For the first time, the city would also charge for 3,000 “general admission lawn seats” at Taste concerts. City officials have not said how much the lawn seats will cost, but a proposed ordinance states that under the new cost structure, “the average cost per ticket sold to these concerts shall not exceed $25.”
More than 30,000 spots on the lawn would remain free for the Taste concerts, which in recent years have included shows by Jennifer Hudson and Robert Plant.
Last year, Robin Thicke performed at Taste, eliciting some thrusting dance moves from Emanuel that went viral after somebody taped him and put the video online. The mayor referenced his dancing to Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” while talking about why he believes the new ticket price structure would preserve Taste's decades-long reputation as an event all Chicagoans can afford to enjoy.
“Going to the concert, you can still see the concerts free,” Emanuel said today at a news conference at Wells High School about new Chicago Public Schools disciplinary standards. “If you want seating, that's a different thing. But if you want to listen to the music -- and as you probably know from the video, I've listened to music over there.”