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Tunney rolls back hours for liquor sales at open-air plaza near Wrigley

The Cubs would get the green light to sell beer and wine from kiosks at an open-air plaza adjacent to a renovated Wrigley Field – and fans would be allowed to bring drinks in plastic cups to the plaza – under a watered-down plan tailor-made to appease local residents at the team’s expense.

The Cubs hope to turn the year-round plaza into a town square of sorts with live music, farmers markets, a winter ice-skating rink and movies in the park.

But Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has inadvertently put a crimp in those plans in his attempt to tamp down community opposition.

Tunney’s revised ordinance would still grant a so-called “sports venue license” to sell drinks on the plaza only to those establishments licensed as food and beverage operators in the stadium or in the hotel and office building the Cubs are building adjacent to the stadium.

But instead of allowing the Cubs to keep the plaza open until 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, Tunney’s revised ordinance would roll back plaza hours and liquor sales to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.

Dennis Culloton, a spokesman for Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, said the Cubs are pleased that Tunney is moving forward with the plaza plan, but the restriction on beer and wine sales “goes too far.”

“We’re creating a plaza that will be a great development for the community. It will be a 365-day-a-year destination that will complement all of the great establishments in Wrigleyville. Having beer and wine sales cut off at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. weekends is more restrictive than we have now and defeats the purpose of the plaza,” Culloton said.

“We envision movie nights in the summer with green space. Families will be able to watch. Parents may enjoy a glass of wine while they’re all watching a Disney film or ‘Star Wars.’ Cutting off the sale of wine at 9 p.m. would hurt that sort of event. It would hurt charity events. We hope we can talk about that with the city.”

Culloton denied that the beer and wine sales on the plaza would draw patrons away from the bars and restaurants thriving around Wrigley.

“Nothing on that plaza would be incompatible with establishments in the neighborhood. It’ll be more options for families who don’t have a lot of options before and after the game. . . .If you are at an event on the plaza with your children, you’re not going to nearby bars,” he said.

Tunney said he’s simply trying to strike a balance between the Cubs’ need to generate additional revenue and the community’s demand for peace and quiet.

“The Cubs don’t get everything they want. The community doesn’t everything they want. That’s the nature of politics. There’s negotiating points on either side,” Tunney said Friday.

The alderman said he has spent “the last four or five months trying to work with the Cubs on a doable situation” governing liquor sales in the plaza and firmly believes he has found the appropriate middle ground.

“There will be a lot of positive, family-oriented events for the community. An ice skating rink, farmers markets, movies nights, a splash pool, a large green area for leisure. It’s an attractive piece of property and re-do. But they’re going to have an active food and beverage component,” Tunney said.

“There will be two floors of restaurants and retail in the building. They’re going to have outdoor space adjacent to brick and mortar establishments. There’s remaining square footage in the plaza, which is kind of a unique area with its own guidelines. There’s always compromise. We’ve been working with community groups. We think we’ve got kind of a template to further negotiate.”

Three years ago, the Cubs got the go-ahead to schedule 35 night games per season at Wrigley – and add eight more, including three Saturday nights, to accommodate national television – in exchange for added security and free remote parking.

But the question of allowing the team to sell beer and wine from kiosks at an open-air plaza was put on hold.

“It’s a brand new type of license, so we’ve got a lot of work to do. . . . The community wants more input. . . . I’m sure we’ll have a substitute,” Tunney said then.

Pressed on what changes he anticipated, Tunney said then it was an open question whether liquor sales should be year-round. The aldermen said his constituents were also concerned about loud music and would prefer quieter forms of activity.

The provision that would allow fans to carry alcohol in plastic cups between the ballpark and the plaza has also drawn fire from local bar owners who fear it’ll cost them business from Cubs fans, who are their bread-and-butter.

On that point, Tunney strongly disagreed.

“This is going to be synergistic. . . . Having a remodeled stadium and the whole plaza 365 days a year with a hotel and an office building will bring enhanced activity many, many more days than the current, whatever it is, 80 or 90 days now. . . . One of the problems is, it’s feast or famine,” Tunney said then.