City Council’s License Committee passed a compromise deal for the Chicago Cubs to hold outdoor events and sell wine and beer at its outdoor plaza, as well as tougher rules for towing companies introduced by Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30).

Attendance: Chairman Emma Mitts (37), Rod Sawyer (6), Greg Mitchell (7), Marty Quinn (13), Raymond Lopez (15), Toni Foulkes (16), David Moore (17), Matt O’Shea (19), Willie B. Cochran (20), Roberto Maldonado (26), Chris Taliaferro (29), Ariel Reboyras (30), Milly Santiago (31), Scott Waguespack (32), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Michele Smith (43), Tom Tunney (44), John Arena (45), Ameya Pawar (47)

The bulk of yesterday’s meeting was spent discussing a “compromise” substitute ordinance backed by Ald. Tom Tunney (44) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel creating a new licensing class for sports plazas, and specific regulations for Wrigley Field’s plaza on the corner of Addison and Sheffield. Any other sports venue that wants to apply for a sports plaza license would be subject to its own restrictions and a City Council vote. The liquor license for the newly designated venue will cost $1,760.

Sports plaza license holders would have to enter into a “plan of operation” with the commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) “to mitigate any adverse effects on the surrounding community” for events with over 500 people, including extra security, restricted hours of operation, and trash pickup.

More on the Wrigley regulations:

  • Hours: On non-event days, the Plaza will have to be closed between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and can stay open an hour later on Fridays and Saturdays. On event days, if the event ends after sunset, the plaza must close no later than 45 minutes after the stadium event ends.
  • Liquor Sales: Liquor sales will be off limits between 9:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. between Sunday and Thursday, and an hour later on weekends. Liquor sales can start two hours before stadium events and end at 11:00 p.m. at the latest, depending on the type and timing of the event. Beer and wine are the only drinks that can be sold in disposable cups under 16 ounces. There can be four kiosks selling alcohol in the plaza. Only ticketholders can access the plaza during stadium events.
  • Special events: A maximum of 12 special events can be held at the plaza each year. Only five can be concerts. Non-weekend events between Labor Day and June 15 (the school year, roughly) must end before 9pm. Special events with more than 12,500 people in attendance (concerts, most likely) can only be scheduled on weekends during the school year.

Ald. Tunney and Cubs officials have been sparring for weeks over the proposed regulations for the plaza. Tunney said repeatedly that his top priorities were public safety and quality of life for residents and fans, and different possibilities for the site were discussed “ad nauseum.”

“We need to move forward, we need to give the Cubs this opportunity,” Tunney said, noting each side sacrificed. “I understand the business economy, but I also know sitting here for 13 years that there is a role for government, there is a role for regulation. I think this is a good compromise moving forward to give the Cubs the necessary tools to compete on and off the field, while still being the best neighbor they possibly can.” The ordinance for Wrigley sunsets on November 30, 2019. Tunney said incremental restrictions “[let] us crawl before we walk, before we run.”  

Mike Lufrano, an executive with the Cubs, wanted more. He reminded the committee the plaza envisioned in the 2013 planned development was initially estimated to provide $40 million taxes to the city over the next 30 years, “a major contributor to the city’s budget.” It was also designed to help Wrigley’s owners, the Ricketts family, recoup some of their $750 million investment.

He said he and the Cubs have offered “many different options” to open up the plaza for other bigger scale events like movies in the park, food events, and away game viewing parties, which will be limited by the plaza restriction to 12 events with large crowds. “We don’t think we should be saying no just because the events become popular.”

Mayor Emanuel lauded the rules in a short statement released after the vote: “This is a significant step forward on a reasonable agreement that will allow the Cubs to offer new opportunities to their fans, while maintaining a high quality of life for those who live in the neighborhood. This is further proof of the progress that is possible when you choose compromise over combat and the City of Chicago will be better off as a result of all sides coming together.” Other aldermen on the committee and representatives from neighborhood groups largely thanked Tunney for balancing neighborhood interests with a major economic driver in the ward.

The ordinance will be in full force and effect after publication.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30) had a comparatively breezy time passing their proposed “Towing Bill of Rights” at the tail end of yesterday’s meeting. Pawar served as the only witness. The rules mandate towing companies must post and provide a copy of the bill of rights for customers, and install dashboard cameras in towing cars.  

“We all know about the towing companies that take advantage of the people they tow,” Pawar said, alluding to Lincoln Towing, which already faced tough questioning at a contentious subject matter hearing earlier this year. Pawar said he ultimately hoped the Illinois Commerce Commission removed Lincoln Towing’s operating license, but until then, the bill of rights would remind consumers of their rights under Illinois statute and the municipal code.

“If you get towed, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you’re not beaten up, threatened, have items from your car stolen, have your car damaged… this sets out a clear set of expectations from a towing company to a consumer.”

That ten point bill of rights includes the following:

  • No car can be towed from private property without written consent of the property owner to conduct removals.
  • No car can be towed if the lot doesn’t have signs posted reflecting the parking laws.
  • Towing companies have to publicize their rates and charges.
  • Cars can’t be towed if the owner shows up with the ignition key and removes the car from the property before the car is completely off the lot. Commercial drivers face the same rules, but must pay at least half the posted rate of the towing service.
  • Towing companies have to notify the Chicago Police Department within 30 minutes of removing a car.
  • Towing companies must accept cash, traveler’s checks, money orders, cashier’s checks, certified checks, credit, and debit cards.
  • Even if the car owner can’t pay to take the car back, they must be given access to reclaim items from inside the car.
  • Upon request, towing companies must give the owner of the towed car a picture of the car taken before it was towed that shows the date and time of the tow, the car’s location, and its license plate number, and other relevant video records of the relocation

Under the measure, towing companies would have to give the Chicago Police Department a list of all locations where they have an active contract to remove unauthorized cars every year. Towing companies would have to say whether the agreement allows that company to patrol those lots, or whether the company has to be called to remove a car. Tow trucks must be equipped with on-board cameras that show the front and rear of the car, capture audio from inside, and the date and time each car was towed. The company will have to hold on to those videos for a year, and provide video to owners of towed cars, if they request it.

The committee also passed, without discussion, a new brewery in Back of the Yards, a mead winery in the 21st Ward, and cleanup language regarding the grace period to renew city stickers. A separate item from the City Clerk’s office regarding wheel tax emblems for commercial vehicles was held.

All other agenda items passed by voice vote, including reinstatement of lapsed liquor moratoriums from Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), which he said would be reconsidered after community meetings. In April, committee also approved nineteen ordinances renewing various liquor moratoriums in his ward. All of which, according to him, had either been put in place by his predecessor, Rey Colon, or were along streets recently incorporated during the ward remap.