CITY HALL — Taste of Chicago boasted its first profit in years and brought more than $100 million to the local economy, according to testimony in 2014 budget hearings Wednesday.
"Taste of Chicago had a very good summer," said Michelle Boone, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
After years of losing money, the Taste cleared a $272,000 profit, Boone said, in part by halving its run from 10 days to five. It also benefited, she added, from a renewed emphasis on food, including the Chef of the Day program and the influx of food trucks.
Boone said Taste visitors rose to 1.5 million, up 300,000 from the previous year. Interviews with 400 visitors estimated the overall impact on the city economy at $106 million.
Some aldermen had suggested the Taste be ended earlier this year after it lost money from 2008 on.
DCASE was generally praised by council members, with Ald. Matthew O'Shea (19th) crediting Boone and her department and Mayor Rahm Emanuel with helping to save the Beverly Arts Center over the last 15 months.
Yet the department heard criticism from several aldermen on street closings associated with film shoots.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) asked the department to "make it a bit more predictable," and Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) asked a "better process" for notifying residents. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) sought notice "at least two or three days in advance instead of one." Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) also said her South Side neighborhood had been disrupted by shoots.
Just this month, Wicker Park residents were awakened by police bullhorn in the middle of the night to move their cars for a TV production.
Rich Moskal, of the Chicago Film Office, said film productions generally work well in advance in scheduling, but TV productions are often more fluid and might set a location eight days or fewer in advance. "I do recognize the need to get further notification," Moskal said, "as early as possible."