So in case you haven’t been following this, the new proposals by the Ricketts family to create an outdoor plaza area complete with bars, restaurants, and other venues have hit some roadblocks.
Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward) has been the most vocal adversary to the development plans. He’s also the guy that introduced the smokeless tobacco ban. Basically, his whole argument, and surely the argument of many of his constituents, is that things could get loud and maybe even dangerous if this plaza goes through.
So with this issue coming back into focus, the Ricketts family — through their company Hickory Street Capital — sent the following open email to folks in Wrigleyville:
“Dear Wrigley Field Neighbor,
As you may have seen in the news this week, Levy Restaurants has filed an application for an outdoor patio liquor license related to the operation of the Plaza outside Wrigley Field. This exciting step will help lead the way to the long-awaited opening of the Plaza, turning a once-abandoned area into a celebrated open space.
The Plaza is operated by Hickory Street Capital, an entity owned by the Ricketts family. More than four years ago, the Ricketts family began the process to design and develop the Plaza as an exciting year-round destination suitable for its Lakeview location near the Friendly Confines. It was designed after extensive discussions with Alderman Tunney and the community and approved as part of a Planned Development in 2013.
The Plaza offers another choice among the many options that help keep Lakeview vibrant. When allowed to operate fairly, it will be an asset to neighbors and the neighborhood. On gamedays, it is an inviting alternative for guests of all ages, including parents and families who want to be included in the atmosphere but not be in neighboring bars. On non-gamedays, it offers chef-driven restaurants, entertainment, farmers markets, an ice rink, movies and music in the park and other activities.
Unfortunately, these new amenities are being challenged by those who seek to limit the promise of the Plaza. For example, opponents now seek to force the Plaza to shut down following every Cubs game. This is not the intent of a welcoming open space.
Since 2013, Alderman Tunney has proposed, and then abandoned, two separate ordinances to authorize the Plaza’s operation. The latest discussions backtrack yet again and raise the specter of restrictions in excess of the prior two ordinances. At Alderman Tunney’s request, we took the unusual step of meeting with a group of Clark Street bar owners regarding the operations of the Plaza. As you can imagine, they would prefer we not compete with them on gamedays. But forcing us to play by different rules deters investments in our neighborhood and denies neighbors and fans the promise of a vibrant, growing economic boost to the City.
To dispel a rumor, the Plaza is not intended to be driven by alcohol service 365 days a year. Our desire is to make the Plaza safe and friendly, open and inviting. The hope was to adopt a comprehensive ordinance to authorize activity and reasonable beer and wine sales on the Plaza, while providing operating restrictions consistent with other Clark Street businesses and the community’s input. But with a Plaza ordinance going nowhere and the space ready to open later this year, the patio liquor license is the most applicable license. It offers the same playing field as other outdoor patios in the neighborhood, allowing the sale of alcohol, including mixed drinks, until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.
To date, Hickory Street Capital has been approached to host national and international events appropriate for its space in the neighborhood, food and music festivals, chef-driven restaurants, movies and music in the park and other activities that will bring world-class events and increased commerce to Lakeview and Chicago at reasonable times and for worthwhile activities.
This was the goal when the Ricketts family made a decision to invest $750 million to restore Wrigley Field and develop the surrounding community. Moving forward with the exciting addition of this valuable community asset will keep our neighborhood thriving and vibrant.
We remain committed to open, healthy dialogue with Alderman Tunney who has said his “number one priority is ensuring the public safety and quality of life for neighbors and visitors to our community.” We agree. The Cubs, for example, provide off-duty police officers to the community during, and for three hours after, each Wrigley Field event. In conjunction with the Plaza, Hickory Street Capital has proposed a safety and security plan which includes additional security personnel, reasonable rules for alcohol sales and limits on hours of operation, all aiming to ensure what happens on the Plaza will stay on the Plaza. No other business in the community makes more of a contribution to the safety, security and well-being of Lakeview than those owned by the Ricketts family.
The time has come to move forward. Cubs fans and neighbors deserve access to this wonderful space, which has been promised since 2011.
We appreciate your continued support.
Hickory Street Capital”
Hopefully you’re still reading, because that email was a behemoth, but here’s my take: I love drinking outside. Especially in a cool environment. Give me a nice open-air lineup of bars and food — maybe throw in some live music — and I’m there. And I’m even more there if baseball is involved. So I guess my point here is that yeah, if you want to make the argument that this would be a little over the top, and that it would be bad for other bars, I can’t deny that. But to me it sounds like a hell of a time, and a lot of mula for the organization to rake in.