CITY HALL — Ticket prices for food at the Taste of Chicago will likely increase by 50 cents a strip as Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a series of changes to the annual festival Wednesday.
Emanuel introduced an ordinance that would also, for the first time, charge attendees of Taste concerts for lawn seats, according to a release from the Mayor's Office.
The city will "sell 3,000 general-admission lawn seats," according to the release, but it did not specify the cost of those seats. More than 34,000 lawn seats will remain free, and "the average cost per ticket to concerts will not exceed $25," according to the mayor's office. Top ticket prices for "premium seats," however, would rise to $50.
"Any increases to ticket prices will be offset by an increase in the availability of cheaper tickets, including those on the lawn," said Jamey Lundblad, spokesman for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. "Until we have the performers booked, we can’t comment on the exact pricing or quantity offered beyond the average sale price of $25 and maximum quantity of 6,000."
Lundblad added that the pay portion of the lawn would most likely be fenced in.
"What they're trying to do is make sure Taste of Chicago is self-sustaining," said Ald. Joe Moore (49th), chairman of the Committee on Special Events. He was quick to add, however, that 80 percent of available lawn seating would remain free.
“Last year’s Taste of Chicago was a great success, recouping more than its costs for the first time since 2007 and generating an estimated economic impact of more than $100 million for Chicago businesses,” Emanuel said in a statement. “We continue to offer free admission and entertainment, and the proposed changes will create a sound financial future for our premier lakefront festival.”
Taste food-ticket prices haven't spiked since 2008, and a strip of 12 will cost $8.50 instead of $8 if the ordinance is approved.
“Last year, four of the five concerts sold out, and this proposal will provide flexibility to add a reserved area directly behind the fixed seats,” Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Michelle T. Boone said in a statement.
“We continue to schedule popular musical acts, and want to meet demands of music fans willing to help support the Taste by spending money for slightly better seats at free performances,” Boone said.
"I'll certainly give it a fair hearing," Moore said. "I want to make sure they can justify it."
Moore said that, at first glance, the price hikes seemed reasonable, but added, "I won't make up my mind until the hearing."