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Updated 2/27/12 – 4:07 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The city’s restaurant community is gearing up for the NATO and G8 summits planned for Chicago in May, and officials insisted Monday they are not worried about security measures restricting access to their businesses.
As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, Illinois Restaurant Association president Sheila O’Grady encouraged her Chicago members to join Chicago Culinary Crossroads, a so-called “dine around” program featuring cuisine from the eight nations comprising the G8.
Frequent diners at participating restaurants can also enter a contest for various prize packages.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
“Not only do you get to go out and try these great menus put together by these chefs and the international chefs who are visiting, but you can also win something at the end of it,” O’Grady said. “My personal favorite is the ultimate package to Chicago Gourmet.”
Lori Healey, head of the summit host committee, sought to downplay concerns about whether the Secret Service might close some downtown streets where participating restaurants are located for security reasons.
“They’ve been very good to work with over the last couple of months, and, you know, want to ensure that there’s minimal impact on the city,” Healey said.
Healey said she’s not worried the Secret Service will block of some restaurants’ streets if they’re located near a hotel where world leaders are staying.
“It’s way too early to worry about street closures,” Healey said. “Based on their experience, [the Secret Service has] been able to kind of work around those issues over time, as those perimeters are established. So, we don’t feel like there’s gonna be a need, and we’ve said all along, as has the mayor, that the city should be open for business during this time.”
The restaurant promotion will run for most of May, although delegates attending the summit will only be in Chicago for part of the weekend of May 19-21.
“We’re talking 48 hours, largely over a weekend in Chicago,” Healey said.
Meantime, as CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, some security training for the summits was underway Monday, although most security plans were still being kept secret, less than three months before the summits start.
Either summit organizers don’t know yet what those security plans will be, or they don’t want to tip off protesters planning to disrupt the summits.
The only type of training the media has had access to so far have been demonstrations by a private security firm assisting with security for the summits.
Katalin Ogren demonstrated the Israeli fighting technique called Krav Maga, which Beacon Operation Security Services is teaching to those who will escort and provide security for members of international delegations attending the summits.
Kim Castro, lead operations director for BOSS, said they have trained about 100 people so far for the security details.
BOSS has been hired by local hotels and businesses to train their own security officers for the personal protection of key summit delegation members and their families.
“It will be either the delegates’ families, or some other people who are non-delegates, that are coming for the events,” Castro said.
While Chicago police said they’re currently training officers to use batons and shields, they won’t provide details of summit security training or let the media see the training they’re providing.
“I think what we’re trying to is deal with misinformation,” Healey said. “It’s a very short window of time when dignitaries are in town; and we do this all the time. We do Lollapalooza downtown, we do the Air and Water Show downtown, we’re very experienced in dealing with crowds downtown.”
But Healey wasn’t able to reveal details about how security arrangements might affect traffic on Lake Shore Drive and the Stevenson Expressway, which run past McCormick Place; or the trains which run beneath the convention center; or about closings which might affects businesses or residents during the summits.
“It’s still three months out. It’s very early in the planning process. As we said before, we don’t exactly even know the exact number of countries that are coming,” Healey said. “But we’re working very closely with our partners at the federal government, our partners in law enforcement here to ensure that, over this very brief weekend, that it’s a great event for Chicago and that things will run smoothly.”
Both Healey and O’Grady said the summits would be a big boost for the city of Chicago.