First the good news: The city deferred action on its latest proposal for licensing concert promoters, originally set for tomorrow's City Council meeting.
Some people have been naive enough to call it a victory, but don't be fooled. The delay doesn't protect all the small promoters and club owners and not-for-profits who want to throw fund-raising bashes. It's merely what one alderman calls a "tactical retreat" on the part of the mayor.
Here's the deal from several good City Hall sources, including an alderman or two.
The vendor's licensing bill (commonly known as the promoter's ordinance) has been resurrected because Mayor Daley wants it, and no one in City Hall has the guts to tell the mayor he can't have what he wants.
Daley wants it apparently because he's convinced himself that this is what it will take to prevent another E2 disaster--even though the first E2 tragedy could have been avoided if the city had simply enforced a judge's ruling and kept the club closed.
The mayor also wants the licensing fees. Don't underestimate his insatiable hunger for new forms of revenue. It takes a lot of money to run this town, especially when you're looking to spend billions on the Olympics and your TIFs are already devouring at least $500 million a year -- and rising -- in property taxes.
The mayor didn't get the vendor's licensing bill he wanted last July because big venues like the United Center opposed it. They feared it would force out-of-town promoters to opt out of the city and move concerts and circuses to suburban sites, such as the Rosemont Horizon.
So this time around the proposed bill exempts arenas with more than 500 seats, including the United Center, the Chicago Theatre, and Northerly Island. The mayor sent the revised bill to the Committee on Licenses and Consumer Protection, which is headed by 47th Ward alderman Eugene Schulter, and Schulter pushed it through his committee last Wednesday because, like almost every other alderman in the council, he does what the mayor wants.
Daley and his aides seem to have figured that once the big promoters and venues calmed down everyone would. But they clearly underestimated the opposition the bill would generate. Now everyone who cares about live performance in this town, from club owners to musicians to promoters to fans is up in arms, shooting off e-mails, threatening to storm City Council meetings, and vowing to get friends and family to vote against any alderman who votes for this bill.
So Daley had Schulter defer action on the bill to buy the time he needs to figure out how he has to rewrite it in order to pass something, if only to save face. Remember this is the mayor who forced the council to defer enacting the ban on smoking in restaurants and bars for two years to make sure it wouldn't look as though he was compromising on his opposition to smoking bans.
Best bet for what gets changed? Look for Daley and company to cut the promoters' fee. He'll probably reword the language governing not-for-profits so PTA leaders don't have to shell out $500 and get fingerprinted in order to throw a freaking fund-raising dance. Then they'll try to figure out what they have to do to pare down the opposition from mid-size clubs like Metro and Martyrs' and bring them into the fold. Independent and underground promoters won't catch any breaks.
My advice to opponents of the bill is to protest at City Hall. You can't imagine how much the mayor and the aldermen hate it when citizens actually show up there. Lord knows what might happen if people saw how the city really works.