Low Turnout At Taste Meant Low Profits For Vendors

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.

  • Pothead


    • Avg Joe

      parking =kills you
      food money $200 =does not go far
      thugs and gangs running the show=cowaed police
      stay home and go to a town picnic…=safe! and Cheap!

  • LaTanya

    Bring back the fireworks! And just start getting some big name acts like Milwaukee Summerfest does and charge for the concerts. I’d rather pay for someone I really like to perform than be stuck with the acts that were there this year for free. I think the lack of fireworks and good entertainment is what really made a difference in turnout. The only reason I went this year is because of the 12 new restaurants. Oh that reminds me…more variety would be nice. Because really, how many pizza places do you need?

    Also, how about scheduling some summerdance during the taste. It’s a good way to work off some of that food and have some fun.

  • Mike

    59 restaurants splitting $4.9 million comes out to just over $83,000 each for two weeks worth of work. It’s a good thing these people own restaurants or they might starve to death on $41,000 per week.

  • Citizen for a Livable Chicago

    To many choices. The taste is just one event of many in the city and suburbs. Welcome to the law of diminishing returns

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