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Bars Pan Proposed Pub Crawl Rules After TBOX Fiasco

By Serena Dai | December 18, 2012 6:29am | Updated on December 18, 2012 1:02pm
 Wrigleyville bars fill up during the Twelve Bars of Christmas, TBOX, bar crawl run by Festa Parties. More than 40,000 people attended on Dec. 15.
Wrigleyville bars fill up during the Twelve Bars of Christmas, TBOX, bar crawl run by Festa Parties. More than 40,000 people attended on Dec. 15.
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WRIGLEYVILLE — Many bar owners agreed on one thing about Ald. Tom Tunney's plan to regulate pub crawls: You can't regulate irresponsible people, but you can control whether they get into your bar.

Area bars experienced a flood of business during the Twelve Bars of Christmas, or TBOX, holiday pub crawl earlier this month run by Festa Parties that started at 8 a.m. and lasted all day — with some partying late into the night.

TBOX, which police said drew more than 40,000 people, became violent when a man was stabbed with a broken beer bottle at Red Ivy, 3525 N. Clark St. after midnight. Further down the street, a fight sent another man face-first into the Chicago Comics storefront at 3244 N. Clark St.

After the violence and neighborhood complaints about property damage and poor cleanup, Tunney said he wanted to regulate bar crawls by limiting the size and times of the events.

But many bar employees said they didn't experience problems besides the few people who couldn't handle their alcohol. The whole event played out like a busy Cubs game or St. Patrick's Day for many bars, they said.

"Irresponsible people will be irresponsible no matter what," said Rafael Mojden, manager of The Bar Celona at 3474 N. Clark St.

Wrigleyville bars are no strangers to crowds. The ballpark seats more than 40,000 people, and on Opening Day, bars fill up. But as long as bars don't let in more people than their capacity, things should run smoothly, said Erik Baylis, director of Big Onion Tavern Group, parent group to The Irish Oak, 3511 N. Clark St. In fact, the TBOX crowd seemed more "mature" than the usual Wrigleyville crowd, Baylis said. 

"For us, it was no different than a busy Cubs game," he said. 

Baylis credited a strong door policy for a successful TBOX at The Irish Oak. It asks problem patrons to leave, or simply doesn't let them in at all, a practice on any business night, he said. Complaints from the community only pop up "due to people not taking the correct measures," he said.

"Most bars will let in anyone and don’t control their establishment and kind of get what they deserve," Baylis said. 

The Bar Celona hired four security guards during TBOX, versus their usual one security guard, Mojden said. But no matter how much bars prepare, more problems are bound to come up when more people are around, he said.

Violence as bad as the beer bottle-stabbing is a "freak accident," said David Strauss, manager at Sluggers Wrigleyville, 3540 N. Clark St., who said business owners should self-regulate. Bars were only supposed to allow TBOX's 28,000 ticket-holders inside from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The real problems exists on the streets, outside of bar security, and capping off registration as Tunney suggests will do little, Strauss said. 

"You can't tell people they can't walk on the street," he said. "That's when everybody's completely out of control."

Other businesses, such as Einstein's Bagels and Chicago Comics, have suggested a later start to the event. But Baylis thinks starting the crawl in the morning actually helps keep people from going too wild, he said. Early starts usually mean early finishes, and The Irish Oak mostly transitioned into a usual Saturday night crowd after TBOX, he said.

"People tend to go home and pass out," Baylis said.

Bars did not outright reject the idea of rules on pub crawls as long as the alderman first discussed them with businesses and the community. Business is better, after all, when the area is safe. When employees worried about walking home at night, area bars came together to pay for overtime police officers, said Baylis. 

But as for neighborhood complaints of litter and property damage, Baylis, who lives in the area, has a theory: "The Cubs are bad, so people aren’t used to a lot of people being in the area," he said. "It was chaos [during the playoffs]. People don’t remember that."