City Council committee relaxes rules governing public drinking at Navy Pier

SHARE City Council committee relaxes rules governing public drinking at Navy Pier
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A City Council committee has backed an easing of public drinking rules on Navy Pier. | Sun-Times file photo

Navy Pier patrons would be free to “walk with open alcohol” both inside and outside under a mayoral plan advanced Tuesday to make the Pier a more attractive place to be even in the dead of winter.

“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 wintertime when nobody’s outside. So we worked with them on that,” Liquor Commissioner Greg Steadman told the City Council’s License Committee.

“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.”

Drinking is currently permitted only when seated at licensed establishments inside or on outdoor 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 kiosk.

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

“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. BYOB will not be allowed on the public way of the Pier. ”

At the behest of downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), the License Committee also approved a watered-down plan to make it easier for the city to flag sidewalk cafes for encroachment onto public sidewalks beyond their authorized borders.

Reilly’s original plan would have empowered the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to order the temporary shutdown of any sidewalk cafe that’s been issued violation 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 Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the License Committee also granted blanket approval for rooftop clubs with a bird’s-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 Field authorized four concerts per season.

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