$20 Admission Coming For Taste Of Chicago?

UPDATED 01/04/10 10:26 a.m.

CHICAGO (WBBM) — If there is a Taste of Chicago next summer, it may leave some people with a sour taste when they find out how much it’ll cost to attend.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, the one private company that has submitted a bid to take over the Taste of Chicago and the city’s other festivals in Grant Park wants to charge admission.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya Reports

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the firm Celebrate Chicago LLC would charge Taste customers $20 for admission, but give them $10 in food and drink tickets. The other $10 would help pay for bigger-name entertainment, but there would be a second price to see that entertainment.

The admission fee would apply during weekends, holidays and after 4 p.m. on weekdays.

The concert tickets would cost $25 to $65, but the $20 Taste admission fee would be waived for those who bought concert tickets, the Sun-Times reported.

Children under 10 would still get into the Taste free, the newspaper reported.

The currently free Jazz and Blues festivals would also have admission prices. Free admission would continue for Viva Chicago and the Celtic, Gospel and Country Music festivals, the Sun-Times reported.

The city has been losing millions of dollars in the last few years to put on the annual festivals.

Celebrate Chicago is co-owned by the Illinois Restaurant Association, and concert promotion agencies JAM Productions and AEG Live.

AEG is one of the world’s leading concert promoters and touring companies. It produces the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, a two-week celebration that’s a huge tourist attraction in the Big Easy.

JAM Productions bills itself as the nation’s “largest independent producer of live entertainment.”

The Illinois Restaurant Association is run by Sheila O’Grady, Mayor Daley’s longest-serving chief-of-staff. The association has managed the event’s food and beverage operations for the last 27 years.

Together, joint-venture partners propose to expand family programming and have restaurants “grouped by neighborhoods” so people have a “real sense of Chicago.”

With Taste of Chicago “hemorrhaging money,” the team quickly concluded that it was “kind of impossible” to avoid an admission fee and still draw bigger-name talent.

Last year, Taste had only two “recognizable names” performing on its stages and several stages were frequently “dark.” Summerfest had more than a dozen “huge names.”

“For a city like Chicago to get beat by Milwaukee is unacceptable. The level of talent we have playing the Taste needs to be elevated,” said a source familiar with the bid.

“The idea is to change it a lot over the years…We don’t see that happening in the first year, given the time [crunch]. But there isn’t any reason why this food and music event shouldn’t be bringing in tens of thousands of tourists. Chicago should have one of the premier events in the country.”

Last fall, Special Events Director Megan McDonald warned that big-time cuts could be coming to the lakefront festivals if the selection process drags on too long or if the city isn’t satisfied with the bids.

Now the only team vying to take over the event is warning that time’s a wasting.

“The city can’t do this. They haven’t booked a single act and some of the talent is already booked [to other venues]. Only a private company can do this. In fact, we should have been working on this months ago,” said a source familiar with the bid.

McDonald could not be reached for comment. Procurement Services spokesperson Shannon Andrews did not return calls.

The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire

  • Head North

    here we go again, i born and raised in chicago, 45yrs old and for past 30 yrs EVERYONE knows when it come to 4th o july fests milwaukee summer fest is place to go…. always will and always has the better music line up, food , cheaper….milwaulee 1 1/2 hours from chi, cant go wrong…….

  • Arthur

    Can it grantee your security from gang bangers?

  • Mel Oiler

    Needless to say, these festivals will see a huge drop in attendance and free neighborhood events will see more popularity. There is no way that I would ever pay 20.00 to go to Taste, when it is already overcrowded and food/drinks are expensive for what they give you.

  • James Watkins

    I guess I will not be going for a Taste for lunch anymore, many do. The question is does the taste turn a profit or cost the city, and how much? Maybe put the money into the neighborhoods, so many need a help in quality of life improvements.

  • Chicago girl

    Head North: Thanks for the tip. I might just do that. I’m not paying $20 plus additional tickets for food. The $10 they will give in tickets is barely enough for a beer. Good job Richie!


    have to pay 20.00 to get in plus 50.00 to park and then the new bathroom use fee , man BUY BUY CHICAGO

  • Carol M

    Actually I like this idea. This would then cut down on the homeless folks roaming around. In addition, less ghetto welfare folks ruining the event.

  • bob

    The Taste has been a huge rip off for years. I hope nobody goes to anything in Chicago.. The streets in Chicago are crumbling. Highest parking rates in the country. I hope someone is put in jail over the privatization of the parking meters.

  • http://fresh1059.radio.com/2011/01/04/20-admission-for-the-taste/ $20 Admission For The Taste? – Fresh 105.9, Now With More Music And Better Variety!

    […] Click here for the story from cbschicago.com. 0 comments print Filed Under: admission, DJ, food, Fresh 105.9, radio, scotty smith, Taste of Chicago, WCFS-FM Leave a Comment Below print […]

  • Antonio Mendez

    Soon the “City of Chicago” will have a corporate name too. Every company is buying bits and pieces of it. May bi it will become Gatorade Town or Starbucks City.

  • Mike Diz

    I guess increasing parking meters and charging $20 fee to go to taste is another way for the state of Illinois to punish the residents since the state is spending 2x more than what the state is making. Geez.. get these clowns out of office. $20 is not worth it anyways, over the last 5 years, it has gotten more and more ghetto and nothing but little thugs running around. Not fun to take the kids anymore and def. not worth my time and money if they are going to charge to attend. I can see the attendance of this years taste being cut in half.

    If Chicago keeps this up, we are going to turn into another Detroit or Cleveland. State government is going to ruin our beautiful city.

    • Lincoln Park

      I agree with you, but don’t you think that the $20 cover charge will deter most of those “little ghetto thugs” from attending? I have skipped the past 3 years because of this. If they do charge, I will definitely show up.

      • Average Guy

        Won’t you be surprised when you go to the Taste of Chicago and the gang-bangers and thugs are there, like they don’t have twenty dollars, when there is a steady stream of suburbanites driving into the city to buy their drugs?

  • Gregory D. Howe

    If it covered all days of the Taste, I guess it would be worth twenty bucks but a lower price should be made available for single day admission.

  • http://us99country.radio.com/2011/01/04/20-or-more-to-get-into-the-taste/ $20 Or More To Get Into The “Taste”? – US99.5, America's Country Station

    […] CLICK HERE for the story from our friends at CBSChicago.com! 0 comments print Filed Under: 2011, Admission, Taste of Chicago Leave a Comment Below print […]

  • Jack

    Admission is free before 4pm on weekdays, can anyone read? Maybe they can get real bands now and thugs can shoot themselves up in their own neighborhoods.

  • Linn

    I stopped going when the cost got too high for my budget. I have a long memory and miss the early days — when 50 cents (2 tickets) got you a 3 bite “taste” of the vendor’s signiture speciality. You could graze for hours tasting a little of everything. I probably spent just as much money as I do now and I enjoyed it a lot more. The music was free (probably paid by a Fine Arts grant) and supplied by local talent trying to get recognized. I’ve always suspected there’s a plan to make Meigs Field into Chicago’s version of Milwaukee’s Maier Park. It’s a contained site with electricty, water and sanitation. Even without the Olympics, it could still happen.

  • putes

    I love the taste and go every year!! always said id never go to the Naperville rib fest because you had to pay.. looks like im not going to the taste this year too!! and i hope evert one doesnt go!! its bull!!!

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