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Emanuel wants to let Navy Pier patrons drink inside and outside

Patrons strolling through Navy Pier this summer will be free to “consume and carry open containers of alcohol” both inside and outside the pier, provided the booze is purchased there, under a mayoral plan proposed Wednesday.

As the new City Council got down to official business, Mayor Rahm Emanuel went about the business of making it more convenient for beer and wine drinkers strolling around Navy Pier this summer.

The mayor introduced an ordinance that allowed Navy Pier patons to “consume and carry an open container of alcoholic liquor throughout Navy Pier if [it] has been lawfully served . . . at a restaurant, tavern, outdoor, non-fixed seating or mobile pushcart “holding a valid Navy Pier liquor license.”

Yet another stipulation is that the open container of liquor be contained in a “disposable cup that clearly identifies the name of the establishment” where the booze was purchased.

The ordinance also states, “Alcoholic liquor shall not be brought into or consumed in any Navy Pier parking garage or in any prohibited area designated as such” by the McPier Authority. Those off-limits areas “shall be designated by signage and monitored for compliance,” the ordinance states.

Violators would face fines ranging from $100 to $500 or six months in jail or both for each offense.

Currently, drinking is permitted only when seated at licensed establishments inside or on outdoors patios. If a patron tries to leave with a drink, they are only permitted to walk around 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 from a licensed kiosk.

The mayor’s decision to spell out the rules of the road for drinking on Navy Pier comes at a time when the South Dock is being redone, the food court is being revamped and a new Polk Brothers park is being built at the entrance of Navy Pier.

The $20 million “legacy gift” from the Polk Bros. Foundation will bankroll and rename four major elements of the soon-to-be transformed Navy Pier that might otherwise have to wait without the foundation’s largess.

The four elements include:

♦ Polk Bros. Park on what is now Gateway Park at the front entrance to Navy Pier.

♦ Polk Bros. Performance Lawns at the south end of the Navy Pier entrance plaza, complete with two stages for arts and cultural programming. One stage will jut into the water, offering the audience a stunning view of Lake Michigan as a backdrop. The other stage will allow the crowd to face the stunning Chicago skyline.

♦ An interactive Polk Bros. Fountain with more than 250 programmable jets that will be converted into an ice rink during the winter months.

♦ A Polk Bros. Promenade leading to Navy Pier with a so-called “welcome pavilion” that offers skate and bike rentals.

The legacy gift will be paid over five years while the Polk name will remain on the four features for 25 years.

The donation was timed to coincide with the 100-year anniversary that Navy Pier will celebrate in 2016.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this week that the Navy Pier makeover is more than a year behind schedule and that attendance has fallen at one of the state’s largest tourist attractions.

Despite a drop in attendance from an estimated 9.2 million people in 2012 to 8.9 million in 2013, Navy Pier’s reported operating revenues rose slightly, to $44.5 million, primarily from sponsorships and the leasing of exhibition space.

In the fall of 2013, Navy Pier Inc. awarded a $71.4 million contract to Madison Evans Construction Group. Madison’s vice president, Harry L. Walder Jr., worked at Navy Pier when it was operated by McPier.

But the project hasn’t gone as planned.

Weather-related delays have slowed construction, and the Polk Bros.’ gift last year sparked Navy Pier Inc. to redesign plans for the pier’s Gateway Park and Family Pavilion, slowing it even more.

Those changes prompted Navy Pier Inc. to seek new construction bids for the park and pavilion, hiring McHugh Construction to do that work rather than Madison.