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'Disingenuous' Cubs Rile Neighbors Ahead Of Plaza Liquor License Hearing

By Ariel Cheung | June 3, 2016 7:52am
 The second year of construction at Wrigley Field includes major work on the plaza and office building that will have first-floor retail and dining.
The second year of construction at Wrigley Field includes major work on the plaza and office building that will have first-floor retail and dining.
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Chicago Cubs

WRIGLEYVILLE — Things got heated on both sides of the Wrigley Field plaza debate days before the community meets to discuss the Chicago Cubs' application for a patio liquor license.

Neighbors took umbrage to the Cubs' oft-repeated promises of family-friendly activities on the triangle plaza when the ballpark's tussle with Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) centers on the ability to sell alcohol there.

"I'm so tired of hearing 'family-friendly,' because that's so disingenuous," said neighbor Lisa Iverson. "If they were truly family -riendly, they would not be staying open until 11 or midnight. No one in their right mind would say that's family-friendly."

The Cubs filed for a patio liquor license May 5 amid stalled negotiations over the proposed ordinance specifically crafted to handle plaza operations.

Two weeks later, Tunney introduced a third draft of the ordinance, adding restrictions the Cubs oppose. Among them, the ordinance dictates:

• Only ticket holders can enter the plaza during games or concerts. Fans can move freely between the ballpark and the plaza.

• Alcohol sales will cut off at the seventh inning during games or one hour before a concert ends.

• Special events — those with more than 1,000 people attendance, alcohol sold or amplified sound — require a permit and would be limited to eight per year.

Tunney wants to prevent an additional 6,000 people from being in congested Wrigleyville on game days — essentially a 15 percent increase in Wrigley Field's capacity, his chief of staff Bennett Lawson said.

"Why have an additional 6,000 people when this was supposed to function as an extension of the park?" Lawson said Thursday.

Tunney also said it was important to cut off sales before the end of a game or stadium concert so fans would not be able to continue drinking by leaving Wrigley Field for the plaza after the seventh inning.

The half-finished Wrigley Field plaza on Opening Day 2016. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Tunney said he "joins members of the community in remaining very concerned with the potential problems that would come with serving alcohol to thousands of people on the plaza."

The alderman would have the power to approve or deny special event permits, meaning he could prevent unwanted amplified sound or other neighborhood nuisances.

Tunney's camp has expressed dissatisfaction with the Cubs' application for a patio liquor license. Neighborhood organizations in Lakeview also have come out against it, with the Lake View Citizens Council joining four of its branch groups in formally asking the city liquor commission to deny the patio license.

Some said they felt blindsided by the patio liquor license amid talks about the ordinance. Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy's Bleachers, said that the license doesn't allow for any special events. The much-touted family-friendly events, for example, would not be allowed.

"If this was about movies and ice rinks and farmers markets, I don't think we'd be here," Murphy said. "No one has problem with those events."

The Cubs are still trying to clarify how the special event permits can be used, said Mike Lufrano, vice president of community affairs. If every movie night requires its own permit, having just eight per year isn't viable, he said.

Those low-impact events, though, only need a permit if alcohol is sold. City code also allows permitted events to last up to 10 days.

The Cubs will present plans for the patio liquor license during the East Lake View Neighbors meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Lake View Presbyterian Church, 716 W. Addison St.


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