Wrigleyville neighbors weigh in on patio planned outside ballpark

There were a few flitters of new information during a neighborhood meeting Tuesday as the Chicago Cubs and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) rehashed opposing plans for the Wrigley Fieldplaza.

Team officials insisted the plaza would not be in use 365 days per year, but offered no specifics on how often they’d like to use it for concerts, corporate events, movie nights and farmers markets.

“I don’t have a specific number, but it’s less than 365. We know in the winter months, there’s not going to be a whole lot of activity,” said Mike Lufrano, vice president of community affairs for the Cubs.

The Cubs did present a plan of operations for the triangle plaza, which should be finished in the fall — perhaps in time for a post-season run.

The plan of operation would prohibit aggressive loitering and discourage people from hanging out on the plaza when there aren’t scheduled activities. The Cubs promised to clean the plaza daily and after events and to install cameras that will monitor the area.

During the Tuesday meeting, East Lake View Neighbors considered the Cubs’ application for an outdoor patio liquor license, which critics say is ill-fit for the ballpark plaza and its 6,000-person capacity.

“Be careful with the rhetoric and what the request is,” Tunney advised his constituents. “They’re capable of running the patio like any other patio,” which is licensed to operate year-round, he said.

“Whether they choose to or not, if we allow the patio license, we can’t treat them differently with different hours,” Tunney said.

The license doesn’t allow for special events like the oft-promised ice skating rink and movie nights, nor could the plaza host concerts and other events with amplified sound.

It’s also designed for smaller-scale venues, Tunney suggested. The average patio in Chicago holds 50 people, currently maxing out around 240.

The Wrigley Field plaza should be finished in the fall, with the adjoining office building at Waveland Avenue ready for occupancy in early 2017. [Provided/Chicago Cubs]

Even the Cubs say the license is a poor substitute for a city ordinance custom-built for Wrigley Field. But the team remains unsatisfied with a pending time crunch and limitations that Tunney and his committee of neighbors want to test out for a two-year trial period.

Specifically, the Cubs oppose portions of Tunney’s third draft of the plaza ordinance, which dictates:

• Only ticket holders can enter the plaza during games or concerts, though they could move freely between the ballpark and the plaza.

• Alcohol sales will be cut off at the seventh inning during games or one hour before a concert ends.

• Special events — those with more than 1,000 people attendance, alcohol sold or amplified sound — require a permit and would be limited to eight per year.

Neighbor Nicole Greenberg pointed out that a single special event permit can last up to 10 days, allowing for a maximum 80 days of loud, alcohol-fueled events. That would be in addition to the Cubs games and concerts inside Wrigley Field not subject to the special event restriction.

The Cubs are still trying to clarify how the special event permits can be used, said Mike Lufrano, vice president of community affairs. If every movie night requires its own permit, having just eight per year isn’t viable, he said.

Those low-impact events, though, only need a permit if alcohol is sold.

As some neighbors sought answers to questions on security and operation plans, others expressed cautious optimism that the plaza would further growth in Wrigleyville.

“I believe the hotel will block the noise, and commerce is good. This will create jobs and tax revenue if properly managed,” property manager Mark Weyermuller said. “If it’s some wild party like Pearl Jam every night, that’s going to be an issue.”

Construction on the Wrigley Field plaza ahead of Opening Day 2016. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Ashvin Lad, a longtime Lakeview resident and Cubs season ticket holder, said he felt Tunney’s ordinance was too restrictive and would stifle the plaza’s possibilities.

“His idea of limiting participation to just ticketed patrons during games goes against everything our neighborhood is really known for — being inviting and open,” Lad said. “I don’t think their arguments hold much weight. It’s a lot of hyperbole.”

The Cubs filed for a patio liquor license May 5 amid stalled negotiations over the proposed ordinance specifically crafted to handle plaza operations.

Two weeks later, Tunney introduced a third draft of the ordinance, which he said could get a public hearing in the next four to six weeks.

The public has until 5 p.m. Thursday to submit comments on the liquor license. Afterward, the liquor commissioner could approve the license, require the Cubs to submit a plan of operation or deny the license.

The Lake View Citizens Council joined four of its branch groups in formally asking the city liquor commission to deny the patio license.

The council cited the stalled talks over the plaza ordinance, expressing hope that “with a swift denial of the outdoor patio license, your decision will allow those discussions to resume.”

If the license is approved, “it will allow for an unprecedented amount of people” and “be open 365 days a year,” wrote Will DeMille, council president. “An outdoor patio license for such a large number of patrons is not what residents want or need.”

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