Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

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 can’t afford to pay $500 or $1,000 for license fees,” Mickelson said.

“We’re so selective in who we allow into our venues, losing any more puts us at a danger of not operating profitably. ... It’s 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. That’s because the company is so selective and keeps such close tabs on its promoters, he said.

“At E2, they said, ‘Okay, guys. You’re renting my venue. Here’s the keys to my house. I’ll see you tomorrow.’ That doesn’t happen with a responsibly run venue. It’s vastly different than the way we operate,” Mickelson said.

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6 Comments

This is an ancillary issue, I suppose, but those capacity numbers don't seem accurate. If those are true that means Schubas holds more people than Park West. And the Vic only holds 250?

Yeah, those seating numbers for the Vic and Park West look like they're each missing a zero or something.

I'm pretty sure those numbers are SEATING numbers, not standing room.

The ordinance talks about "permanent seating," so I assume those numbers indicate the amount of permanent seating at the Vic and the Park West, not the overall capacity.

so basically if you are under 21 you cant trow a party and listen to music.... morons

Thanks for the support, JIm. I don't get in to Chicago in time to go to city hall to protest this but I'm hopeful that many, many other promoters & people who appreciate what we do will.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on May 8, 2008 8:30 AM.

Background reading on the promoter's ordinance: The proposed law, and the Chicago Music Commission's response to it was the previous entry in this blog.

Concert review: Ministry begins its long goodbye is the next entry in this blog.

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