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Taste of Chicago Restaurateurs Feel the Sting of This Year's Festival

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 12, 2011 2:00PM

While the Park District is still trying to figure out whether it lost money or broke even on this year's Taste of Chicago (which itself may be a sign that some change in the festival's organization is needed), the festival's participating vendors can let us know that this year's model wasn't as good for their bottom line as in previous years.

The 59 participating restaurants at Taste of Chicago saw a 20 percent decrease in their profits from last year to $4.9 million and 37.5 percent over the receipts from five years ago.

The numbers have Robinson's No. 1 Ribs owner Charlie Robinson, who's been the most vocal vendor critic of this year's lackluster Taste, echoing Mayor Emanuel's call for some real talk about planning for next year's model. Said Robinson:

“If they [city officials] get involved and promote the event, get some big entertainment and open it up to longer hours, we can bring it back,” Robinson said, adding: “We need to bring the suburbanite in metropolitan Chicago to this event. They have the disposable income” and will shell out the money for some food and fun.

The Park District is still adding final calculations from sponsorships, food and beverage sales and other revenues. District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said that early projections strengthen their initial forecast that they lost money on the festival.