WRIGLEYVILLE — Finding cheap beer around Wrigley Field on game days is not an easy task. And local bar owners are asking the Chicago Cubs to keep it that way.
As the Cubs and the city hash out the rules for a new outdoor plaza under Wrigley Field's famous red marquee, local bar owners say they're worried the team will undercut their sales by selling discounted beer.
At a meeting Wednesday night, Clark Street proprietors and leaders of the Illinois Restaurant Association told Cubs officials and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) that the Cubs shouldn't get special accommodations for the new plaza.
The proposed plaza on Clark Street
Specifically, the bar owners want to ensure the Cubs don't sell cheap beer on the plaza — where a large projection screen could broadcast the games — in an attempt to draw customers, while selling at higher prices inside Wrigley Field.
"Either we regulate it, or we might as well just throw the whole street to hell," one business owner said.
Another said coordinating alcohol prices between the two, which will have separate liquor licenses, amounted to violating anti-monopoly laws.
"They may say yeah, we're going to sell $5 beers in the park and outside, but then come the ballgames, and they're selling $1 beers on the [plaza] to bring people in," he said. "That's not fair to anybody."
And with a capacity somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 people, that could seriously hurt the bottom line for Wrigleyville bars, which have a combined capacity of about 10,000, bar owners said.
"We have people come to these neighborhood meetings asking for extensions of licenses, and they're talking 50 [people] here, 100 there," one said. "We're talking a 60 percent increase in the capacity currently available."
Mike Lufrano, the Cubs vice president of community affairs, disagreed with the idea that the plaza would detract from the bars' customer base.
"They're people who are already there [at Wrigley Field]," he said of plazagoers.
Tunney said he wanted the ordinance to ensure the Wrigley Field developments "energize and uplift the entire neighborhood."
The plaza — which will be open even during the Cubs' offseason — is meant to become a hub for the community, offering family-friendly events like an ice rink and movie nights, he said.
"I want them to do that, but don't put other people out of business by discounting beer," said Sam Sanchez, owner of John Barleycorn and Moe's Cantina.
Allowing customers to travel between the plaza and the ballpark was another point of contention discussed at Wednesday's Hawthorne Neighbors meeting.
Several "chef-driven, high-end" restaurants opening in the office building on the north end of the plaza will likely have outdoor patios in the summer, Cubs officials said Wednesday. While those patios will be gated off from the plaza, they won't be subject to the same cutoff times for alcohol sales as the plaza.
The plaza, meanwhile, must stop alcohol sales at the 7th inning of games and for an hour after events like concerts, Tunney said.
Tunney also proposed cutting off alcohol sales on the plaza at 9 p.m., allowing an extra hour on weekends.
Fearing the plaza would offer cheap beer to draw customers and threaten their own businesses, bar owners asked that the ordinance prevent the Cubs from charging different prices for beer in Wrigley Field and the plaza.
"I'm a retailer — you know I get it," said Tunney, who owns Ann Sather. "We want to make sure we build this as a synergy rather than try to compete with one another."
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