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Riot Fest will go on; hospital, festival settle dispute

The three-day Riot Fest will go on as planned after lawyers for Saint Anthony Hospital on Tuesday withdrew their attempt in federal court to block the festival from taking over Douglas Park beginning Friday.

The hospital filed a lawsuit last week, arguing that the 45,000 people coming to the festival every day will severely hurt the patients and operations at the 110-year-old, 151-bed hospital. Of particular concern was the impact on physician and staff parking, ambulances and on-call physicians needing quick access to the hospital in emergencies, according to the suit.

But lawyers agreed upon a settlement in U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel’s chambers on Tuesday. Then during a brief hearing in open court, lawyers announced the two sides had agreed on an settlement and the hospital had withdrawn its request for a temporary restraining order, which would have blocked the three-day punk rock, heavy metal, hip-hop and rock music festival from happening.

It’s an end to a contentious fight, which both sides now say was a series of “misunderstandings.”

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Riot Fest co-founder Mike Petryshyn had previously criticized the hospital, saying his staff has had numerous meetings with Saint Anthony over the summer. But last week, Riot Fest got emails from Saint Anthony’s lawyers saying the hospital wouldn’t take legal action to block the festival if Riot Fest would pay $154,000 to cover the hospital’s expenses, including security and legal fees.

On Sunday, Riot Fest released those emails from the hospital attorneys, who also sought assurances that there would be no festival entrances on 19th Street, and that neither 19th Street nor California Avenue would be closed during the festival. The hospital declined to comment on the emails sent by attorneys from McGuireWoods, the hospital’s law firm.

But on Tuesday after reaching the settlement, Riot Fest and the hospital issued a joint statement, crediting the help of Ald. George Cardenas (12th) and the city of Chicago for clearing up misunderstandings and helping to guarantee hospital access for the community.

“Both Riot Fest and Saint Anthony Hospital have been focused on bringing a world-class festival to Douglas Park and a great experience for the community, while maintaining access to the hospital,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, passions ran high on both sides and motivations were questioned. Both sides regret their aggressive statements. Saint Anthony Hospital acknowledges that Riot Fest was not lying and Riot Fest acknowledges that Saint Anthony Hospital was not motivated by financial gain.”

“Thankfully, calmer heads prevailed when we met today with city and police officials to work out the compromise for the benefit of the community,” the statement from Riot Fest partner Sean McKeough and hospital president and CEO Guy A. Medaglia said.

Compromises include restoring parking on 19th Street in front of the hospital; creating pedestrian barricades on the west side of California Avenue; monitoring of traffic with a promise that traffic will be closed if pedestrian and car congestion make it difficult for emergency vehicles to access the hospital. There will also be sound monitoring within the hospital to protect patients.

Festival organizers in May announced the move to Douglas Park on the Near West Side. The move came amid opposition from Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) and complaints from neighborhood residents who opposed the festival’s return to Humboldt Park, where it had been held the past three years.