Taste of Chicago Should End, Ald. Fioretti Suggests

By Ted Cox on March 13, 2013 4:08pm 

 A Vienna Beef employee prepares to bite into a 37-foot-long hot dog at Chicago's Taste of Chicago on July 1, 2004.
A Vienna Beef employee prepares to bite into a 37-foot-long hot dog at Chicago's Taste of Chicago on July 1, 2004.
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Getty Images/File Photo

CITY HALL — A downtown Chicago alderman said it's time for the city to push away from the table on Taste of Chicago, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel countered that continued changes and reforms would make the annual food festival worth additional helpings.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) submitted a resolution Wednesday calling for the Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation to hold a hearing to study "the reconstitution or elimination" of Taste of Chicago.

The resolution included a laundry list of faults concerning the annual summer chow-fest in Grant Park, including declining attendance and its failure to turn a profit since 2008.

The resolution states that Taste attendance peaked at 3.6 million in 2006, but dropped to 2.35 million in 2011, down 11 percent from the previous year. Last year's Taste was cut to five days, yet "still lost money," according to the resolution, costing taxpayers $1.3 million  — $300,000 more than 2011.

The resolution called for a hearing to "question the sagacity of continuing what is fast becoming a losing proposition."

Three of Fioretti's allies on the Progressive Reform Coalition signed off on the resolution, including Aldermen Leslie Hairston (5th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and John Arena (45th), as well as Ald. Ray Suarez (31st).

Emanuel, however, called on the city to "make changes, reforms," rather than quit the popular fest, which has played host to visitors since 1980.

Emanuel pointed to how the city continued to tweak the music schedule surrounding Taste, this year bringing in the music group fun. to open the five-day fest July 10. He also cited the pop-up restaurants Taste made room for last year, as well as the seating accommodations occasionally added.

"I want to continue to make changes," Emanuel said.

The Civic Federation, a financial watchdog group, has long called for privitization of the Taste.

The city, on its web site, calls the festival "one of the largest tourist attractions in Illinois" and "the place to be." The festival is credited by the city for "infusing the city with a spirit and attracting lead stories each day in newspapers and on television."

 Ald. Bob Fioretti (right) wants to hold a hearing to determine if Taste of Chicago is worth continuing. He's backed by (from left) Aldermen John Arena and Scott Waguespack.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (right) wants to hold a hearing to determine if Taste of Chicago is worth continuing. He's backed by (from left) Aldermen John Arena and Scott Waguespack.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

 

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