Taste of Chicago to charge for concert seating, special meals

March 14, 2012

Michell Eloy

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is making more changes to the Taste of Chicago, including charging festival goers for concert seating and specialty meals prepared by well-known chefs.

"Year in and year out it has lost money and then the tax payers paid, and not everybody went," said Emanuel after introducing the ordinance at Wednesday's City Council meeting.

The mayor wants to charge $25 for seating at the Petrillo Music Shell and $40 for three-course specialty meals prepared by renowned Chicago chefs. Stephanie Izard of Girl and The Goat and Jimmy Bannos of The Purple Pig are among the chefs who have expressed interest in cooking at the annual event.

The city reports the Taste of Chicago has an operating deficit of $2.7 million over the last three years. Attendance has also declined by nearly 35 percent since 2008.

Former Mayor Richard Daley has said the Taste of Chicago should always be free, and he rejected a proposal to privatize the event.

Under Emanuel's ordinance, entrance to the food fest and lawn seating for concerts would remain free.

The mayor has already shortened the taste from 10 days to five and moved it from Fourth of July weekend to later the same month.

The additional changes still need approval from City Council.