Emanuel to Cubs: ‘Take yes for an answer’ on Wrigley plaza liquor rules

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday the Cubs should “take yes for an answer” and go along with rules he has proposed to govern an outdoor drinking area and event plaza next to Wrigley Field that fall short of what the team wants.

Emanuel said the City Council will pass a new ordinance this month with or without the team’s support. It would allow the Cubs to sell beer and wine until one hour after day games end in the courtyard the team is building on Clark Street next to the park, and only until the end of night games. Game tickets would be required to enter the plaza on game days, according to the Emanuel administration.

In addition to concerts at the ballpark approved in advance, the Cubs would be allowed to hold 12 other “special events” in the plaza, defined as either having more than 1,000 people in attendance or one where alcohol is sold. The ordinance will lapse in three years.

“Sometimes my view on this, you got to be able to take yes for an answer,” Emanuel said about the package he will introduce to the City Council Zoning Committee next week. “They expressed what their bottom lines were, and we have an agreement on that. … I would describe as a consensus and a compromise where one, the owners are able to invest in Wrigley Field, and the fans can experience that investment, and two, the aspirations and the rights of the surrounding neighborhood and community are respected in that process.”

The plaza has been the latest battle line in the ongoing fight between the Ricketts family and neighborhood groups about how much the team owners should be allowed to do as part of its massive renovation project at the historic ballpark and its surrounding neighborhood.

The Cubs want considerably more control over the plaza than what they are given in the ordinance backed by Emanuel and Wrigleyville Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th.
In late 2013, the team introduced a measure to the City Council to create a sports plaza designation in city code. That would have allowed the Cubs to sell beer and wine on the plaza until 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, with no game-day restrictions. But the proposal went nowhere.

On Monday, Emanuel said he and Tunney compromised with the team. “As a party to this, I know what they wanted by the ninth inning, I know what they wanted on day games afterward, I know they wanted more. In two years they wanted more than eight (additional) events, and that has been, by Ald. Tunney and myself, agreed to,” he said.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green said, “Our answer and further details on the plaza will be communicated directly to the city.”

Last month, the team announced it had applied for an outdoor patio license for the plaza. In recent remarks to the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said the plaza would be “more than just a beer garden,” and that it would “be one of those special places on earth where when you’re walking through, like when you’re walking through Europe when you come across that special castle or palace and you see people just being there, because being there is an event unto itself and it’s cool.”

Tunney responded by saying whatever Ricketts called it, they “applied for an outdoor patio license, which in effect is an outdoor beer garden, (4,000) to 6,000 people, potentially 365 days a year. That’s 20 to 30 times larger than any outdoor patio in the city of Chicago and, for that matter, probably the Midwest.”

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