Levy Restaurants, Wrigley Field's concessionaire, filed for an outdoor patio liquor license, which would allow sales of beer, wine and mixed drinks on the plaza during and after games and events.
But the two-year license does not allow for live or recorded music or special events like the much-touted ice rink, family movie nights and farmers market, so the Cubs say they still want to work with Tunney on creating the ordinance.
The ordinance negotiations have reached an impasse over the past few weeks, and "it became abundantly clear it was stalled because, in our view, the alderman was looking to limit our ability to operate on a level playing field," said Cubs spokesman Julian Green. "We did it because we couldn't wait any longer."
Tunney said granting a liquor license to a year-round outdoor beer garden that would serve at least 4,000 people for 12 hours a day requires significant community input.
"We are very concerned with the potential serving of alcohol to thousands of people on the plaza every day of the year," Tunney said Thursday. "That's why I proposed a plaza ordinance that allowed beer and wine service and events on a more limited basis while we worked through any issues."
The plaza will likely be finished in the fall, but it was time to begin scheduling events for 2017, Green said. Without an ordinance setting parameters for plaza use, "no organizer is going to agree to hold an event," he said.
A rendering of the Wrigley Field plaza, which should be completed in the fall. [Provided/Chicago Cubs]
The major sticking point was Tunney's plan to limit alcohol sales, ending at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Tunney also wanted to prohibit alcohol on the plaza during Chicago Cubs games, keeping vendors from selling beer or wine until one hour after the games conclude.
When the ordinance was first introduced in 2013, alcohol sales were allowed until 11 p.m. and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays — identical to the time limits granted by a patio liquor license, Green said.
For the Cubs, the earlier cut-off time "is pretty much a non-starter," Green said.
"In our view, you can't limit our ability to effectively operate our business to protect others' profits," he said. "It's creating an unlevel playing field to protect a select group of businesses over others."
In January, Wrigleyville bar owners said they feared the Cubs would sell beer on the plaza at cheaper prices than inside Wrigley Field, underselling nearby bars and cutting into their profits.
"Either we regulate it, or we might as well just throw the whole street to hell," one business owner said. With a plaza capacity between 4,000 and 6,000 people, selling $1 beers on the plaza, for instance, could seriously hurt the bars, which have a combined capacity of about 10,000.
Selling alcohol on the patio is a source of revenue the Cubs desperately want as the $750 million Wrigley Field renovations continue. Across Clark Street, the Ricketts family — which owns the Cubs — is starting construction on a hotel meant to further enhance the Wrigleyville corridor.
"When the family decided to move forward, they were assured we'd be able to launch ventures to generate additional revenue to help pay for the development," Green said.
Tunney said he and the community have been "supportive" of the development and "applaud the Cubs' commitment to family-friendly events on the plaza."
"My number one priority is ensuring the public safety and quality of life for neighbors and fans," Tunney said.
While the club would still prefer the ordinance over the more limited liquor license, "this is all we could get because of [stalled] talks," Green said. "It's one part of what we hope to do."
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