The upcoming Taste of Chicago, in addition to being held later in the summer and lasting half as long as previous years, will also feature only one-third of the food vendors it did last year.
The city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which will again be overseeing the 2012 festival after the city's Park Department took over last year, announced the reduction in vendor space from 2011's 59 restaurants to 40 on Thursday.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the changes are part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's quest to make the ailing festival, which last year reported a 21 percent drop in attendees compared to the 2010 edition, profitable.
(Scroll down to watch the mayor comment on the changes coming to Taste this year.)
And though the festival schedule has been drastically shortened, the city is still charging food vendors the same $3,000 participation fee as the twice-as-long 2011 festival and has increased the amount of gross sales they will need to pay the city back -- up 2 percent to 18 percent, the Tribune reports.
Another change coming to the festival, which will be held July 11-15 at Grant Park, is the addition of between three to six so-called "pop up" restaurants -- established dining spots that are new to Taste and will offer a different flavor to each of the festival's five days, according to Fox Chicago. While not paying the one-time $3,000 fee, these restaurants will owe the city 20 percent of their gross sales.
Criticized earlier this month over Taste's shortened schedule, Emanuel defended the cost-saving changes to the city's premier annual food event.
"I think after 20-plus years of tinkering around the edges we're bringing fundamental changes to it, but I have all the confidence that people will continue to go to it," the mayor said in an unrelated press conference earlier this month, as reported by NBC Chicago.
CBS Chicago reports that, over the past three years, the festival is estimated to have lost some $7 million as fireworks have been eliminated and the festival has failed to attract top-level musical acts. Vendor sales have also been on the decline -- last year, restaurants participating in the festival sold 20 percent fewer slices of deep-dish pizza, corn dogs and the like than they did at the 2010 event.
WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis reported Thursday that as of earlier this month, the city's cultural affairs department, reeling from another round of layoffs, had yet to even begin booking talent for the city's wildly popular, free-of-charge Millennium Park summer series including Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays, Music Without Borders and Summer Opera.
Photo by theo0023 via Flickr.
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