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Midsize Concerts Would Be Cheaper, But Big Shows Pricier Under Rahm Plan

By Heather Cherone | October 13, 2017 2:17pm | Updated on October 16, 2017 8:32am
 The crowd at a Blink-182 show at the Metro in August.
The crowd at a Blink-182 show at the Metro in August.
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Facebook/The Metro

CITY HALL — Music lovers won't have to pay the city's amusement tax when they buy tickets to see shows at some of Chicago's midsize concert venues, including the Metro and Thalia Hall, under a proposal from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The city currently tacks 5 percent on to the cost of a ticket to shows at venues with no more than 1,500 seats under it's amusement tax.

"I don't think we should stifle the culture of our neighborhoods by taxing Thalia Hall in Pilsen or the Metro in Lakeview at the same rate we're taxing a 40,000 seat concert venue," Emanuel said in a statement.

If approved by the Chicago City Council as part of the city's 2018 budget, the change would make tickets cheaper at approximately 30 theaters, restaurants and bars that host live cultural performances, according to officials. Emanuel is set to introduce his 2018 budget Wednesday.

However, tickets to shows at large venues — like the blockbuster Broadway musical "Hamilton" at the CIBC Theatre in the Loop — would likely cost more, after the city hikes the amusement tax on tickets to shows with more than 1,500 seats by 80 percent.

Tickets to large shows would come with a 9 percent amusement tax, up from the current 5 percent, under Emanuel's proposal.

That is the same amusement tax slapped on to tickets to sporting events, officials said.

Metro owner Joe Shanahan said the mayor's proposal was "incredibly encouraging" after discussions stretching back for more than a decade.

"Putting emerging bands in positions to be successful — especially financially — is an investment in both the arts and in small venues that act as creative incubators," Shanahan said in a statement.

The amusement tax does not currently apply to venues with fewer than 750 seats under current law and that would not change if Emanuel's proposal is approved.

The change for larger venues will mean they will be taxed the same level of amusement tax for concerts at Chicago's sports stadiums — such as Wrigley Field and the United Center — as the city charges for tickets to games, officials said.

All venues owned by nonprofit groups and museums will remain exempt from the amusement tax, officials said.

The proposed changes are expected to add $15.8 million to the city's bottom line, officials said.

From those funds, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events will get an additional $1 million to fund a number of projects, including public art along the Riverwalk as well as efforts to revitalize the Maxwell Street Market in partnership with Mexican Museum of Art.