From the tavern “Death March’ down Western in Beverly to last weekend’s bloody Twelve Bars of Christmas in Wrigleyville, power-drinking pub crawls have become big business in partying parts of town.
But like the best boozy events, the worst drunkards — the brawlers, the vandals and the fools — have tainted the long-standing place of the tavern march in Chicago’s thirsty culture.
After the Saturday stabbing during the Twelve Bars of Christmas, or TBOX, down Clark Street, which was attended by as many as 30,000 people, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) pledged to author an ordinance aimed the balancing the public’s right bar hop with neighborhood safety concerns.
On Wednesday, Tunney said he’s leaning toward treating pub crawls like the Gay Pride and the South Side Irish parades, both of which started as small neighborhood gatherings and turned into massive parties that attract out-of-towners.
“We may treat them like parades because that’s what they kind of are,” he said of the pub crawls. “These people at TBOX came in from all over the Midwest.”
While the ordinance remains in its “embryonic stage,” Tunney said pub crawl planners could be required to get special event permits, hire private security and repay the city for the cost of extra police patrols, among other things.
The bloody end to TBOX — a man was stabbed with a beer bottle at Red Ivy at 3525 N. Clark St. — put a spotlight on how big the business of pub-crawl planning has become citywide.
TBOX promoter, Festa Parties, also runs baseball, Hawaiian and Mardi Gras-themed pub crawls through out the year. There’s a Zombie pub crawl in Ravenswood, an Octoberfest crawl in Lincoln Park and a President’s Day crawl in the West Loop. And for 12 bucks one can get an “all-access” ticket to “Bad Santa” crawl on Division Street near the Viagra Triangle on Saturday.
Derailed, a company that bills itself as “Chicago’s premier monthly pub crawl,” offers standing Wednesday night tavern marches in Wrigleyville and Lincoln Park. The company website, getderailed.com, promises Wicker Park and Lakeview crawls are “coming soon.”
While neighborhood security is Tunney’s top concern, he said that “when money is transacted the city always wants to make sure the companies are good economic stewards and if there are taxes to be paid and such.”
But the proposed ordinance might not just target mega-pub crawls. Bar marches put on by neighborhood groups raising cash for charity also could be required to register their traveling drinking parties, Tunney said.
“Anyone collecting money for a pub crawl whether it’s for a good reason or profit should be careful that they protect their interests on how they’re organized and how they are accountable to government,” Tunney said.
“There’s a lot of issues we have to deal with and I think we will have some reasonable discussions about how we can protect the community and still keep it interesting and innovative,” he said.
Tunney said he’s looking for compromise, not trying to be a party pooper.
“We were all in our 20s. And we need our young adults in Chicago. You see them come here from Iowa, Michigan and Indiana. They come from towns they don’t want to go back to for practical reasons, maybe the jobs or our exciting cultural and night life activities,” he said. “I’d rather have too many people wanting to come to Chicago and try to figure out how they can be responsible, also.”
Tunney said he plans to discuss the topic with other aldermen affected by the pub-crawl craze and forward an ordinance next year.