LAKEVIEW — Organizers of a raucous Wrigleyville holiday pub crawl say they plan to double security, and add dumpsters and barricades on Clark Street after last year's event irked neighbors and officials and ended in violence.
Chris Festa of Festa Parties, the company behind the Twelve Bars of Christmas, or TBOX, sent a letter to bar owners and neighboring businesses about the new safety and cleanup measures the company plans to take for this year's event on Dec. 14, spokeswoman Lissa Druss Christman said.
Many of the actions are tied to a special event permit that Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) requested they apply for because pub crawls are not legally tied to city approval. Changes to this year's TBOX are intended to "maintain better crowd control," Festa said in the letter.
Festa hired Special Events Management, a company that runs many of Lakeview's summer festivals, to run many of changes this year, Druss Christman said.
The all-day crawl will be staffed with more than 100 security guards and off-duty police officers, the letter said, more than double last year's number. First-aid stations have been also added to the crawl's route, which spans Clark Street in Wrigleyville down to pubs along Diversey Parkway.
Festa Parties told city officials last year that it would hire 100 security guards to supplement police during the crawl but ultimately provided only 50. If it fails to follow agreed-upon guidelines, Festa Parties could be fined or denied future permit requests.
Police, meanwhile, will be boosting their presence too, according to Town Hall Police Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris. They will be concentrated more on the side streets and in the neighborhoods, he said, which were flooded with trash and public disturbances last year.
TBOX-provided dumpsters, recycling bins, 50 portable toilets and a private cleanup service also will line the route in hopes of keeping the neighborhood clear of the trash and public bathroom breaks that marked last year's crawl.
Cereal — a tradition of TBOX ever since Festa and his friends realized bringing cereal to bars attracted women — will not be given out by Festa Parties in hopes of limiting outside litter, though the event's official sponsor, Post Foods will distribute free 2-ounce cups of Golden Crisps at Clark Street and Newport Avenue, Druss Christman said.
"We acknowledge that some places aren't crazy about the cereal idea," Druss Christman said. "But it helps people eat. It's a staple, but it's not the most important part of the event."
TBOX is entering its 18th year, but 2012's bacchanal was the biggest and most disruptive by far, drawing some 40,000 people even though just 23,000 people registered or paid the $40 entrance fee. This year the fee is $45, including a $2.50 processing fee.
Festa wrote on the permit that he expects 20,000 to attend, but an official registration cap has not been discussed, Druss Christman said.
Only ticket holders were supposed to be allowed into bars between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. last year, too, but TBOX lanyards reportedly flowed freely through passbacks and exchanges. This year, Festa reminded bars and ticket buyers that only people with TBOX2013 wristbands — not lanyards — could enter.
And in hopes of keeping attendees from going overboard with booze, all participating bars with kitchens are required to offer readily available food specials and water.
An 11-person advisory council, including six bar owners, a bar-crawl organizer, three business association leaders and a community park representative helped establish the rules.
"We know you have strong relationships with the residents near your establishment," Festa writes in the letter. "Please feel free to share this letter with neighbors or other interested parties. We want to share this year's improvements with as many people in our community as possible."
Festa Parties organizes four pub crawls each year, but TBOX is the company's biggest and best-known. Tickets can be bought online.