UPDATE: My misunderstanding. The ordinance has been passed by its committee, not by the City Council as a whole. The entire council won’t vote on it until Wednesday, May 14. If you value Chicago’s music scene, I encourage you to make your voice heard in opposition to this measure.
The City Council meets on the second floor of City Hall, 121 N. La Salle, at 10 AM on May 14.
Now they’ve gone and done it. Last year the City Council tried to pass an ordinance requiring independent event promoters to buy $2,000 licenses and take out $300,000 in liability insurance, but got talked out of it by some of the bigger names in Chicago’s concert industry. On Wednesday Yesterday they passed one a new version came out of committee that sounds exactly the same as the first, except it exempts “venues with a fixed seating capacity of 500 or more,” removing at least some of the ambiguity as to whether or not it’s targeted squarely at the small operations on whose backs the city’s nightclub scene is built.
It’s a potentially disastrous development for Chicago’s dance and hip-hop scenes, which will likely take most of the hit. But if this ordinance passes there are also going to be major implications for the rock, jazz, and experimental-music scenes, all of which depend to some degree on the sort of small venues and small-time promoters that it’s the ordinance is going to drive out of business.
Or underground.
As the ordinance’s many vocal critics have noted, this would only is only going to affect honest promoters, who will have to decide between ponying up for a license (and going through the hassle of notifying police in writing of every event) and throwing in the towel. These are the ones who run good operations, don’t overcrowd venues, and generally avoid the sort of bad behavior that the ordinance’s proponents, especially alderman Eugene Schulter, seem to think is endemic in the club scene. The type of promoter who’s OK subjecting a crowd to the same sort of risky conditions that led to the E2 tragedy–the inspiration behind this piece of legislation–will have fewer qualms about operating outside the law or moving events into dodgy illegal venues.
Yeah, the underground rave scene was a lot of fun, and a lot of that fun came from its illicit nature, but I feel a lot more comfortable when my friends and I can party somewhere with a security infrastructure and fewer sketchy-ass drug dealers hanging around. Although raving wasn’t nearly as dangerous as the media portrayed it to be, no one who was part of it can deny that a lot of parties attracted shady characters who wouldn’t make it past the doorman at Funky Buddha or Evil Olive. If the City Council creates By creating a regulatory burden that skews will skew the marketplace in favor of scofflaws, it the City Council would is ironically increase increasing the danger Chicago clubgoers will be exposed to.
Oh, and New York City? You owe Schulter and his posse a major thank you. Before now your cabaret law was far and away the dumbest, most anti-fun club-targeting ordinance on the books in any major U.S. city, but I think Chicago has will beat it handily if this thing becomes law. Good job, City Council.