UPDATE, OCT. 6: Department of Revenue Spokesman Ed Walsh emailed today with the following correction to my reading of the amusement tax passages in Chicago's municipal code: "The amusement tax percentage you quoted in your posting was incorrect. The percentage is 5% not 9% fo[r] live theatrical, musical, and other cultural performances held in a space with a maximum capacity exceeding 750 persons."
He also wrote that the applicant for the tax exemption under 4-156-020b5c of the Municipal Code was the Parkways Foundation. I had written "Lollapalooza." But C3 Presents and Parkways are in fact partners in presenting Lollapalooza, as the logo pictured above (as well as the 10-year deal with the city) makes abundantly clear.
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Five years into a long-term deal that keeps the massive concert in Grant Park through 2018, Lollapalooza has generated an average of a million dollars a year for a non-profit arm of the Chicago Park District dedicated to park improvements.
But the three-day festival, one of the biggest in the U.S., grossed more than $17 million last August, and politically connected concert promoters C3 Presents have struck a sweetheart deal with the city that exempts them from paying the taxes that any other concert or entertainment event would have to pay.
Altruistic claims in Lollapalooza's press releases aside, the question looms:
Is Chicago really collecting all of the money that it should be getting from the musical Walmart on the Lake -- especially in the midst of what's been called the worst budget crisis in the city's history, with city services being slashed and lay-offs of police, sanitation workers, and teachers threatened?
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