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Low Turnout At Taste Meant Low Profits For Vendors

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(credit: Steve Hardy/CBS Local)

(credit: Steve Hardy/CBS Local)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Taste of Chicago this summer left a sour taste with some of the festival’s food vendors.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports, last week, the Chicago Park District acknowledged only about 2.35 million visitors turned out for the Taste. The figure is down about 1 million from two years earlier.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports

This was the first year the city turned over the event to the Park District. This time, there were shorter hours, no Independence Day fireworks, and no big-name musical acts.

Now, the Chicago Sun-Times reports the 59 participating restaurants made $4.9 million – 20 percent less than last year.

Charles Robinson of Robinson’s Ribs tells the newspaper he hopes Mayor Rahm Emanuel will make good on his plan to reinvent the Taste and restore its former popularity.

Robinson said previously that the event should be handed over to a private firm to run — an idea that was discussed but rejected by former Mayor Richard M. Daley as he sought to reverse $7 million in festival losses over three years. City Hall ultimately rejected a proposal to charge a $10 admission fee to the event.

At its peak, the Taste — which started in 1980 — drew 3.6 million visitors in 2006 and 2007. But last year, after the July 3rd fireworks show at Grant Park was canceled, it drew just 2.65 million people.

Just after the Taste ended last week, some city officials this week privately questioned whether having fewer attractions to draw people to the Taste, coupled with recent high-profile attacks downtown, could have kept people away in droves.

Still, there were some bright spots. Emanuel last week congratulated newly-appointed Police Supt. Garry McCarthy on the nearly 50 percent drop in arrests and a 20 percent reduction in citations for soliciting, panhandling and peddling without a license. There also wasn’t a single incident involving illegal weapons.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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