The outdoor plaza next to Wrigley Field, now termed “Gallagher Way” after a naming-rights deal with a reinsurance company, has hosted quite a few neighborhood events, including yoga classes and movie nights. It’s also open, but only to ticket holders, during Cubs games.
The Cubs wanted to host more events on Gallagher Way as well as sell hard liquor for some of those events, and Wednesday a Chicago City Council committee approved some new rules for the plaza:
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) negotiated — and the City Council’s License Committee on Wednesday endorsed — a five-year agreement allowing the team to sell hard liquor on the plaza and hold 12 “high-impact special events” each year that draw more than 1,000 people.
Special event permits will be required only for events “with an expected attendance or 1,000 or more people.” Three-day festivals will count as one special event.
The Cubs would be free to hold a virtually unlimited number of smaller events at the plaza, now named Gallagher Way.
Plaza closing times of 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on weekends would remain under the package of changes poised for full Council approval next week.
The article goes on to note that the Cubs would still like to open the plaza to non-ticket holders on game days, but the city says that won’t happen:
Chief-of-staff Bennett Lawson said the Cubs’ request to give those without game-day tickets access to the plaza was a “non-starter” with the alderman.
“When you have 40,000 people coming, we have issues with traffic and parking. To add another 6,000 on game days was really something that the police, the neighborhood, the alderman weren’t open to,” Lawson said.
“Same is true for after the game. Day-game crowds tend to stay the longest. One of the focuses of the police is to get everyone moving through the neighborhood safely. We talked about that with our community groups and businesses and decided to keep the restrictions as they are.“
Cubs spokesman Julian Green indicated the Cubs would still like to be able to further open Gallagher Way:
“We are still puzzled as to why we are being restricted to keep neighbors with no tickets out of a free park and end alcohol sales one hour after games when we have clearly demonstrated we are a responsible operator,” Green wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.
To me, the deal seems like a fair compromise. The Cubs are being allowed expanded liquor sales, more “events” (a three-day weekend event is counted as just one “event,” according to the article) and can have an unlimited number of events with fewer than 1,000 attendees. Mayor Lori Lightfoot is quoted in the Sun-Times article linked above as saying the plaza is a “benefit to the community” and I certainly concur — the movie nights are a good touch and there’s plenty of family-friendly entertainment, and not just during the baseball season. Winterland at Gallagher Way, which has a skating rink open to the public and other events, runs through February 16.
I think this has been a reasonable compromise, especially given previous bad blood between the ballclub and Ald. Tunney. That was reflected in this statement in the Council committee:
“In the spirit of remarkable conciliation that we have here with Ald. Tunney’s office joining with the Cubs, I would request that a White Sox fan make the motion for approval,” Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), vice-chairman of the License Committee, said with [a] smile.