The promoter’s ordinance: The view from City Hall

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Here is my colleague Fran Spielman’s report on committee approval of the ordinance Wednesday.

Some things I missed earlier: Anyone promoting a musical event would need to be fingerprinted and pay a licensing fee as high as $2,000 (on top of securing the $300,000 insurance); promoters would have to pass criminal background checks, and they would have to notify the commander of the local police district and sign written contracts with venue owners.

Remember: All of this is being imposed on promoters when they are working with established venues that have already fulfilled all of these obligations. Some examples: the Nocturna dance nights at Metro; the International Pop Overthrow Festival, the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival and others like it at clubs such as Schubas, the Empty Bottle, the Hideout and Martyr’s; the Chicago Indie Radio Project Record Fair and the Chicago Folk & Roots Festival sponsored by the Old Town School of Folk Music , to name only a few.

City Hall’s justification for the new law? It’s a response to the E2 disaster of 2003 — which, if you follow the press coverage, could have been prevented if many of the laws already in place were enforced. Who would enforce this new law, and why the rush to pass it five years after E2? Those questions remain unanswered.

Meanwhile, adding their voice to the growing opposition are local promoters Jam Productions, whose co-founder Jerry Mickelson is quoted in Spielman’s story:

When I look at the business we do at the Park West [160 seats] and the Vic [250 seats], a good majority of our revenue is from outside promoters. Many of them are … little-time guys who rent our venue maybe once a year [or] once every other year. They cant afford to pay $500 or $1,000 for license fees, Mickelson said. Were so selective in who we allow into our venues, losing any more puts us at a danger of not operating profitably. … Its tough enough to stay in business. … We struggle each year to meet our nut. This ordinance will cause us to lose events. Mickelson said Jam has produced over 30,000 concerts over 37 years and has never had a major tragedy. Thats because the company is so selective and keeps such close tabs on its promoters, he said. At E2, they said, Okay, guys. Youre renting my venue. Heres the keys to my house. Ill see you tomorrow. That doesnt happen with a responsibly run venue. Its vastly different than the way we operate, Mickelson said.

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