Given all the crap the Ricketts Family and the Chicago Cubs have had to go through to even start the renovation process on Wrigley Field, you might not be surprised to hear that Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts isn’t too happy with the locals right now…
Plaza is most frustrated I've seen Ricketts re: renovation process. He has largely played the nice guy/good cop role, at least publicly.
— Danny Ecker (@DannyEcker) June 1, 2016
To recap, the Cubs originally received a go-ahead to sell liquor in their proposed plaza (now under construction) nearly three years ago. There were some reasonable restrictions placed upon the Cubs’ part of the ordinance, given that they do operate within a residential neighborhood. Fast forward a few years, with the Cubs trying to improve the fun factor in the Wrigleyville area for families and fans even on non-game days, and it appears that the good Alderman Tom Tunney has decided to renege on some of the original deal. So the Cubs applied for their own liquor license (drawing a line in the sand, so to speak), and as you can see from Danny Ecker’s article, are now publicly voicing their concerns and frustrations. Here’s the relevant part of the conflict:
Ricketts went on the offensive today in a public dispute with Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, over alcohol sales in the plaza his family is building next to Wrigley Field.
Speaking at an annual luncheon the team holds with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, Ricketts blasted Tunney for allegedly reneging on agreed rules that would govern the space adjacent to the ballpark’s west side.
“We had a deal,” Ricketts told dozens of local entrepreneurs in an impassioned plea for support for the cause, calling the Wrigley Field renovation and redevelopment his “family legacy.”
“We want to get this done and it’s very disappointing that we have to go through this process all over again,” he said.
Under that proposal, the Cubs would only be allowed to sell beer and wine in the plaza during games, concerts or special events at the stadium. Sales would be allowed starting two hours before a game and end in the seventh inning, the same rules for alcohol sales inside the park. And only ticket holders would be allowed to buy the drinks.
That was a big change from the ordinance Tunney introduced in January, which would have allowed year-round alcohol sales in the plaza except during games and cut off sales at 9 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
It was also a far cry from the original plaza proposal introduced in 2013, which would have allowed sales until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends—as well as during Cubs games or stadium events.
The Cubs say they were on board with the 2013 proposal, but have returned to the battle lines with Tunney since the tweaks have been made.
“We had an understanding a couple years ago. All we want is to get back to where we were,” Ricketts said, citing “hundreds of hours” of negotiations with the alderman and community members to create the original plaza ordinance.
I think you should read Danny Ecker’s entire article, but you can’t fault the Cubs for feeling blindsided by these changes, which could curtail much of their entertainment-based revenue streams if dudebros can’t buy booze past a certain hour on prime party nights. It appears that the liquor license application still needs to be approved, but if it is (and it doesn’t appear to be anything standing in the way, but I’m not huge on Chicago city politics), then that’s at least a partial victory for the Cubs side. While the business owners in the area do have a right to complain about the potential loss of THEIR business because the Cubs would now have their own de facto open-air bar, it must be pointed out that the locals pretty much HAVE more business because of the Cubs. And part of the deal for the Cubs to privately fund just about everything they’re doing in the renovation is to be able to set up the plaza the way they want. It sounds like Tom Ricketts wants to be a good neighbor, but right now, the neighbors aren’t reciprocating. Far be it for me to side with the billionaire, but it just seems a bit unfair, don’t you think?
UPDATE: Looks like the Alderman has a prepared statement:
— Danny Ecker (@DannyEcker) June 1, 2016
Pretty run-of-the-mill politician non-speak to buy time.
UPDATE 6/11 12:30 PM: It looks like there was some Mayoral involvement, but they have reached an impasse…
— Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) June 11, 2016
With neither party looking to budge, I’m not sure what will happen. I assume the Cubs will continue with their construction since that still needs to be done, and that gives them a few months to hammer out some kind of compromise. Right now it doesn’t look too good.