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Fix Or End Taste Of Chicago, Some Aldermen Suggest

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 14, 2013 1:30PM

Photo Credit: Paul Callan

We’ve half-joked here that any discussion about shutting down Taste of Chicago would lead to a riot among its fans. Yet that’s exactly what some in City Council suggested Wednesday. A group of aldermen led by Bob Fioretti (2nd) proposed non-binding legislation for hearings to “question the sagacity of what is fast becoming a losing proposition."

Fioretti, backed by his allies in the City Council Progressive Caucus, said he wants to hold hearings about what’s working and not working with the festival so that it may either be restructured further or eliminated altogether.

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced last month Taste of Chicago 2012 lost $1.3 million, despite cutting the festival to five days, moving it to mid-July, charging for pavilion seating for concerts and adding pop-up dinners featuring celebrity chefs. Last year’s festival cost $6 million to produce, prompting Mayor Rahm Emanuel to call for slashing production costs while saying the changes made to Taste have put it back in the direction. Emanuel told the Tribune Wednesday he’s still determined to end the festival’s slide. His floor leader on City Council, Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th) towed the party line that Taste’s benefits extend beyond profit and loss.

"We can't just be a for-profit center. We still have to provide things that are fun for people in the city and that allow us to showcase what we have," O'Connor said.

Fioretti reminded reporters he said “Taste of Chicago was on its last legs” two years ago, while Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said the City Council Progressive Caucus merely wants the hearings to determine what needs to be fixed.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), City Council’s Special Events Committee chair, said he was inclined to hold the requested hearings.