The Cost of Good Taste.
Chicago, January 4, 2011. Amid concerns that Chicago is losing millions each year from the Taste of Chicago (although Taste did have a small profit in 2010) and six other free festivals, the city is looking to privatized the events--starting with Taste. Other possible candidates for privatization include Blues Fest, Jazz Fest, Viva Chicago, Celtic Fest, Gospel Fest and Country Fest. We see how poorly the privatization of the the city's parking meters has gone and we shutter. The idea to privatize city festivals is not a popular one. However, maybe the timing is right and if it is handled correctly, it may just work.
The plan to privatize Taste has been under discussion since the summer of 2010. It was finally put on the table for bids in December 2010. The solitary bid came yesterday from Celebrate Chicago, LLC, a newly formed partnership between Chicago's JAM Productions, the Illinois Restaurant Association and the heavy-hitting national concert promoters AEG Worldwide.
Celebrate Chicago proposes a $20 admission charge, with a $10 rebate for food and beverage tickets. The fee would be charged during weekends, holidays and after 4p.m. on weekdays. Children under 10 would be free at all times along with free weekday admission until 4p.m. In addition, there would be a fee ranging from $25 to $65 for concerts. Advance general admission tickets would be sold in May and June for $8. Also included in the Celebrate Chicago proposal is a $10 admission fee for Blues and Jazz Fest.
Let's face it, The Taste of Chicago, is not what it once was. The times are changing and the Taste remains the same. The new decade may be just the time for some new blood and Celebrate Chicago may just be the transfusion that is needed.
A careful study of the plan with a short-term contract looks like the way to go. The 75-year contract giving up total control, as in the parking meter fiasco, should be a lesson this time around--if and when contract negotiations get underway.
The three partner organizations under the umbrella of Celebrate Chicago, LLC have proven track records. If handled correctly, the Taste could be transformed into a World-Class Food and Entertainment Festival showcasing the entire city and all it has to offer.
With Los Angeles based AEG Worldwide and Chicago's highly-respected JAM Productions putting their talents together--the sky is the limit for bringing top concert acts to Taste. AEG Worldwide has successfully run the highly popular New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in Big Easy and has worked with most of the top names in the entertainment industry. JAM has been around for almost 30 years booking top acts in top Chicago venues. The 27-year history of the Illinois Restaurant Association along with their highly successful staging of Chicago Gourmet gives them the necessary ingredients to showcase the food and beverage part of the Taste.
Maybe the time is now for the City of Chicago to step back from holding parties and start tackling the tough issues at hand.
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