$20 to Get in Taste of Chicago?

City receives one bid to take over summer festival

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It may cost you a pretty penny to get into the Taste of Chicago this year. And don't even think about seeing a band. (Published Tuesday, Jan 4, 2011)

    It may cost you a pretty penny to get into the Taste of Chicago this year. And don't even think about seeing a band.

    Last month the city began taking bids for private companies to take over the annual festival, which has been losing money over the past few years. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the only company to submit a bid wants to charge a $20 admission fee and up to $65 for concerts. Ten dollars of the admission fee would go toward food and/or beverages.

    The fee would be in effect on the weekends, holidays and after 4 p.m. during the week, with free admission for children under 10, according the Sun-Times.

    The company, Celebrate Chicago LLC, run by the Illinois Restaurant Association and music powerhouses JAM Productions and AEG Live.

    A source connected to the bid told the newspaper that an admission fee is the only way to attract big name talent to Taste.

    Allen Sanderson, an expert on sports and special events marketing at the University of Chicago, says the admission price would drive some people away.

    "I would be stunned, if the crowds did not drop by 75 percent, or more," Sanderson said.

    That would, of course, defeat the purpose the city sought in putting the summer festivals out to bid. The lakefront events have been money losing operations over the last several years, averaging a net loss of over $2 million a year.

    Taste of Chicago attendees currently pay $10 dollars for food coupons, but receive only $8 worth of actual tickets. The remaining $2 are siphoned off in fees for various festival amenities.

    Sanderson argues that the city should merely increase that ratio, maybe offering $7 in food coupons for every $10 spent.

    "People are just not going to spend $20," Sanderson said. "They'll spend up to $5 indirectly because of the food coupons, but that's probably enough to knock them off."

    Celebrate Chicago also reportedly proposes charging a $10 admission fee for Chicago's Blues and Jazz Fests.

    Privately, one city hall source held out the possibility the city could seek other bids. This year's Taste of Chicago is slated to run from June 25 to July 4.