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Wicker Park Christmas Crawl Organizer Wins More Support

By Alisa Hauser | October 7, 2014 9:56am | Updated on October 7, 2014 9:58am
 Jess Loren, organizer of the Chicago Christmas Crawl, and her event's head of security, David Coleman, met with members of the East Village Association on Monday.
Chicago Christmas Crawl Organizer Meets with East Village Associaton
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EAST VILLAGE — After being drilled on security, attendance and cleanup plans, the organizer of a Christmas-themed pub crawl narrowly won support Monday from members of the East Village Association.

The group voted 11 to 9 in favor of the event scheduled to take place along Division Street in December.

"There have been preconceived notions of someone else's event that have been placed on this event," crawl organizer Jess Loren told a crowd of about 40 residents at the East Village Association's monthly meeting, held at Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.

Loren was referring to the Twelve Bars of Xmas crawl, or TBOX, in Wrigleyville, a controversial event that attracts thousands of revelers and has drawn complaints about violence and property damage. The TBOX crawl is also scheduled for the same day, on Dec. 13.

Loren, whose previous company Kambio Group, did marketing for TBOX's parent company, Festa Parties, is not involved in TBOX. The Christmas crawl would be the first event from Loren's SocialTechPop.

"We are trying to attract a different crowd focused on a great foodie community, a much more adult experience than what happened up north," Loren said.

Though she did not give an estimated number of attendees, Loren said ticket sales so far have been "very, very minimal" with fewer than 100 tickets sold.

David Coleman, owner of Extrity, which will provide security services until 8:30 p.m. at the event, told residents, "The capacity won't be like a big wave of people walking toward you."

So far, just six Division Street bars and one bakery, A Baker's Tale at 2127 W. Division St., which does not sell alcohol, are signed up for the event, according to the crawl's website.

Loren, who is scheduled to meet with members of the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association on Thursday, said many bars were "waiting for more community opinion" before signing up.

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who has not said whether he would support the crawl, had no comment early Tuesday.

Last week, following a vote of support from members of the Wicker Park Committee, which voted 11-7 in favor of the crawl, Moreno said he wanted to see how the members of two other groups felt about the crawl before he made a decision whether to sign off on the permit for the event.

While no permit is required to produce a pub crawl, Loren is applying for one from the city anyway to help alleviate community concerns.

The crawl's special-event permit, which has a 45-day window between application and the event, would require the approval of Moreno and the local police commander.

Scheduled for 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 13, the Chicago Christmas Crawl would take revelers to participating bars along Division Street between Ashland and Hoyne avenues.

For a $35 ticket, attendees would receive a Santa hat, a turkey baster, a souvenir badge and a lanyard necklace.

Bars and restaurants taking part in the crawl would offer drink specials. And for an extra few dollars, bar crawlers can buy tasting portions from menus.

Should the event break even, Loren said she has a goal of donating $5,000 to a I AM 4 Kids, a nonprofit group which would book a motivational speaker to visit a Wicker Park school.

After the meeting, reactions were mixed among attendees.

"I don't want Division Street to become another Clark Street. I have a bad feeling that this is the beginning of Division becoming more about drinking," said Suzi Wahl, who voted against the crawl.

But for Bob Zwolinski, a new East Village Association member, the crawl seemed like an appealing thing to do on a Saturday.

"In dead of winter, for me, I want to get out and do something. I voted for it," Zwolinski said.

Corey Svoboda, general manager of Division Ale House, 1942 W. Division St., which signed up to be one of the crawl's participating bars earlier this week, said that he welcomed the chance to be part of the event.

"I welcome the pub crawl, sure, come and experience Division Ale House and try some of our food.  I like the idea," said Svoboda, who is considering putting Irish nachos (fries with cheese and salsa), fish and chips and small portions of Shepherd's Pie onto the Ale House's tasting menu.

A Baker's Tale owner Christine LaSorda said that she had received an email from Loren about offering a $3 to $5 holiday baked goods tasting portion during the crawl.

"They presented it to us as an opportunity to bring some people in and taste some food; we jumped on it. We will create a unique menu and get some new people in our doors that maybe have not come in before," LaSorda said.

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