Wrigley peddling ban relaxed, but plaza sidewalks included

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| Sun-Times file photo

Peddlers could return outside Wrigley Field but not on game days, concert dates or when other big events are happening on the open-air plaza adjacent to the ballpark under a watered-down ordinance advanced Wednesday.

At the behest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the City Council’s License Committee agreed to relax the Wrigley Field peddling ban to make it “more defendable” against an ongoing court challenge.

In 2006, the City Council banned peddlers from the sidewalks surrounding the landmark stadium year-round. The goal was to ease sidewalk congestion so exacerbated by peddlers, it had forced many fans entering and exiting the stadium to walk down the middle of the street.

If the City Council approves the revised ordinance, the ban will apply only on “game” or “event” days at Wrigley. The term “event days” includes “any date on which an activity or amusement is scheduled to be conducted at Wrigley Field Sports Plaza . . . or any date on which an activity or amusement is expected to have more than 12,500 people in attendance is scheduled to be conducted at Wrigley Field.”

The new ordinance also lifts the requirement for a $100 peddler’s license for periodicals, pamphlets and similar written materials.

Mark Weinberg, who filed a pending lawsuit challenging the Wrigley peddling ban, argued that banning peddlers from the sidewalks surrounding the open-air plaza on game or event days was yet another big-bucks win for the Cubs.

“They’re trying to do everything they can so they get rid of anybody else who makes a penny off the Cubs. They use the excuse of congestion but it’s really about lining their pockets,” Weinberg said Wednesday.

“A $2 bag of peanuts on the outside costs $6 on the inside. For the team, it’s millions of dollars a year in extra profits. In the meantime, they get rid of little guys trying to make $100 a day. The real people who suffer are the fans who have to bear the burden of the monopoly prices the Cubs charge.”

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who has done almost constant battle with the Cubs, bristled at the suggestion that he was doing the team’s bidding.

“Me? Me? Me? That’s certainly not the case. On game days and event days, the sidewalks are too narrow. Public safety concerns won out in the case. [But] we have been working with the peddler community in regards to narrowing this,” Tunney said Wednesday.

“Originally, it was a much wider prohibition. We worked at trying to make it as concise and limited as we can. This ordinance further narrows it to game days and event days. . . . We did the fairest [thing] to protect their [Cubs] brand, but also give the public an opportunity to sell.”

The lawsuit seeking to overturn the Wrigley peddling ban was filed by Left Field Media, publisher of “Chicago Baseball,” after peddlers were ticketed for hawking the magazine outside Wrigley.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court denied the publisher’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have barred the city from enforcing the ban.

“The city need not bear any burden beyond supplying a rational basis — and the need to curtail activity that delays entry and induces crowds to spill into the streets is more than enough,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel.

But Easterbrook questioned whether the city’s $100-a-year licensing requirement for peddlers posed an unconstitutional burden on Wrigley peddlers trying to eke out a living by selling their wares around the landmark stadium packed to the gills during this year’s historic march to the World Series.

“The $100 fee for a peddler’s license, even if it covers no more than the city’s costs of administering the program, is much higher per hour worked for a publication such as Chicago Baseball,” Easterbrook wrote.

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