The Cubs got preliminary approval from aldermen Wednesday for an ordinance to give them more flexibility to schedule night games, but ran into a delay in their push to set up a team-controlled outdoor plaza where fans can drink beer and listen to live music next to Wrigley Field so neighborhood residents can get a closer look at the details.
The City Council Committee on License and Consumer Protection advanced a package that will allow the team to schedule up to 43 night games without needing to come back to the city for approval.
The measure, which heads to the full City Council for consideration, also sets escalating fines for concerts at the historic ballpark that run beyond 11 p.m. after neighbors complained about a Pearl Jam show last summer that ran late due to a rain delay.
But the panel put off a hearing on a proposed “outdoor sports plaza” ordinance sponsored by Wrigleyville Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th.
The team wants to be able to sell beer and wine in the plaza from 11 a.m. until midnight on weekends and until 11 p.m. on weeknights. Alcohol sales also would be allowed during non-game events like the concerts or ice skating programs the Cubs have talked about for the plaza to be built just west of the stadium.
The proposal also would make it legal for fans to carry alcohol out of the ballpark and into the plaza, and into the park from the plaza.
Tunney said community groups want to hear more about what the Cubs have in mind for the plaza, which could allow the team to host noisy bands as a way to attract people to drink in the area next to the park on non-game days.
“People are concerned about what kind of activities on the plaza, what can and can't happen,” Tunney said.
The alderman said the plaza could be a good way to give people a reason to come to an area full of bars and restaurants when the Cubs aren't playing, helping end the “feast or famine” aspect of operating a business in a neighborhood Tunney sometimes says is too reliant on the baseball team.
But the alderman also said neighbors are worried about the noise.
“It's a brand new type of license, so we have a lot of work to do,” Tunney said. “I've been working very closely with Law, with the Liquor Commission, because it's a new venue. And it would be applicable to all stadiums.”
Last week, an official from the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association expressed concerns that the plaza could serve as a Cubs-owned competitor to the nearby beer gardens along Clark Street and elsewhere, but Tunney said he hasn't heard that as a potential problem.
Cubs vice president Michael Lufrano said the team has considered concerts as a part of expanded offerings next to the park, but said the team wants “to hear what the issues are, and talk it through with the community.”
“There are a number of different kinds of liquor licenses that are available,” Lufrano said. “It was always anticipated this would be a space that on game days our fans could go out and enjoy a beverage and go back into the ballpark, so we hope that will continue.”
The new night game ordinance comes after a prior night game plan passed by aldermen in July drew complaints from the Cubs because it would have required City Council approval for any specific night games beyond 35 each season. The team said that would cause problems with schedulers from Major League Baseball and the league's television partners.
The new plan, which was introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, allows the Cubs 43 total night games each year instead of as many as 46, but lets the team go beyond 35 scheduled night games without needing aldermen to sign off.
The night game ordinance allows for four concerts at Wrigley Field, but now lays out that the Ricketts family or concert promoters will be fined $5,000 for a show that finishes between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. The fine would go up to $15,000 if the show didn't end until between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, and another $30,000 for “each additional half-hour increment after midnight that an event fails to end,” according to the statute.
Pearl Jam played until 2 a.m. in July after a summer storm delayed their concert for 2-1/2 hours.
The Wrigleyville renovation agreement also requires a total of 30 additional security personnel around the park before and after games, a number that was part of the deal reached between the team and the city in the spring. The Chicago Police Department will commit 10 more officers, the Cubs will pay for 10 security people and Tunney said talks are under way with community groups like Wrigleyville chambers of commerce to pay for 10 more.
And the Cubs, who currently provide about 500 remote parking spaces for $6 each at DeVry University, will be responsible for giving fans access to 1,000 free remote parking spaces.