Taste of Chicago premium seating plan advances in City Council

MusicEntertainmentArts and CultureTaste of ChicagoChicago MayorWalter Burnett, Jr.Stephanie Izard

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to charge Taste of Chicago attendees for premium seating to see musical acts in Grant Park and for the chance to eat special meals prepared by prominent Chicago chefs cleared a City Council committee today.

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Michelle Boone told aldermen the hope is that the revenue will help Taste break even after three years in the red. Under the plan, the city would sell seats at the Petrillo Bandshell for $25 each night and charge $40 for three-course meals cooked up chefs including Stephanie Izard of the West Loop's Girl & the Goat.

Boone said the Taste will draw "national headliners" to perform each night of its shortened, five-day run from July 11-15, but she would not name any of the bands. Boone insisted the $25 cost for a seat will be "a bargain." Lawn seating would remain free under the proposal, which will head to the full City Council for a vote next week.

"All music areas," Boone said when asked about the bands Taste goers can expect. "R&B, pop, jazz, country."

In recent years, Taste food vendors have complained that festival crowds have shrunk in part because the musical acts were not as prominent as in years past, when the likes of Stevie Wonder and Santana drew huge turnouts to the lakefront.

Ald. Walter Burnett, the council's Special Events Committee chairman, predicted the new revenue streams will help Taste, which has a $6.8 million budget this year, break even.

"It's a funny thing. Sometimes people's psyche, they would rather go in an area where they have to pay than be in the free area, even if it's just as good as the area where you have to pay," said Burnett, 27th. "People are just like that."

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