Navy Pier drinking gets easier

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Navy Pier is a great place to be in the spring, summer and early fall. But, in the dead of winter? Not so much.

The City Council addressed that problem Wednesday by allowing patrons to “walk with open alcohol” both inside and outside.

“Previously, I would not allow anyone to walk inside in-between venues at Navy Pier and that’s one of the things they wanted to do—especially in the winter time when nobody’s outside. So, we worked with them on that,” Liquor Commissioner Greg Steadman told the License Committee earlier this week.

“The proposed ordinance … would extend this walking with open alcohol on the public way exception to the inside portions of the pier. This will allow Navy Pier customers to enjoy both the inside and outside attractions of the pier without having to discard their alcohol once they come inside.”

Currently, drinking is permitted only when seated at licensed establishments inside or on outdoor patios. If a patron tries to leave with a drink, they are permitted to walk around only outside and only if the restaurant has an “outdoor presence.”

The drink also has to be poured into a plastic cup. Drinks can also be consumed while walking around outside if they are purchased from a licensed kiosk.

Relaxing restrictions on public drinking at the pier is the primary goal of the ordinance championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But, a secondary goal is to spell out more clearly the rules of the road for drinking on Navy Pier.

“The same security measures used for outside alcohol consumption would also apply to inside alcohol consumption. Open alcohol will not be allowed to leave the pier — whether through the main outside gate doors or parking garage,” Steadman said.

“Navy Pier management will strictly enforce the alcohol policy with security cameras, clearly marked signs and the marked cups. Only liquor purchased at Navy Pier can be consumed on the public way of Navy Pier. B.Y.O.B. will not be allowed on the public way of the pier. It would prohibit anyone from bringing alcohol purchased outside of Navy Pier onto Pier premises except in limited circumstances and will prohibitanyone from bringing any open alcohol aboard any vessel docked at Navy Pier.”

At the behest of downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), the City Council also approved a watered-down plan to make it easier for the city to flag sidewalk cafes for encroachment to prevent pedestrians from having to navigate sidewalks that have been made even narrower by some cafes going beyond their intended borders.

Reilly’s original plan would have empowered the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to order the temporary shutdown of any sidewalk café that’s been issued violations notices on three different days during the permit period that pertain to a “significant breach of public safety.”

The new version would simply empower ward superintendents and other designated city workers to issue citations to sidewalk cafes that expand beyond their borders, particularly on weekends when the city workforce is thin. Citations would range from $200-to-$500.

“Typically, we see the cafes grow in size on Saturdays and Sundays. And that’s because not many folks in the city are on the clock. This is a creative way to leverage existing resources that are working to go and issue citations,” Reilly said.

At the behest of local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), aldermen also granted blanket approval for rooftop clubs with a birds-eye view of Wrigley Field to operate during outdoor concerts through 2018. Tunney said it makes more sense to approve a long-term agreement, since the deal that paved the way for the renovation of 101-year-old Wrigley authorized four concerts-per-season.

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