Michigan Ave. closes for the Oprah show

September 6, 2009 (CHICAGO) Detours were going up Sunday night, and it all will have a big impact on commuters and pedestrians alike.

At midnight Michigan Avenue, the street closes to vehicular traffic from Wacker Drive to Ohio Street until 5 a.m. on Wednesday. Oprah is taking over Michigan Avenue for three days, and for three blocks, cars, cabs, and all buses will all have to figure out away around the southern end of the Magnificant Mile.

"I think it's going to be a mess, it's going to be terrible for cab drivers and those who use that street all the time," Don Riley told ABC7 Chicago.

Cab driver Max Jalipour believes he will lose business. He says Michigan Avenue is his bread and butter.

"Sixty percent of passengers are Michigan Avenue, maybe more than that," he said.

The 24th season of the Oprah Winfrey show will kick off on a big stage just north of the Michigan Avenue bridge. The entrance for the audience will be at Ohio Street. The taping is not until Tuesday at 5 p.m., but the set up and the break down of the show means closures for three days.

"I think it's absurd that people are making such a big deal about it. Yeah, it's an inconvenience, but in the end, it's more of a publicity stunt more than anything," said Justin Larson, who works on Michigan Avenue.

However, it's publicity, the Michigan Avenue merchants welcome, especially during a year when the economy hasn't been so kind.

"This is the opportunity to have one of Chicago's greatest marketers to market the city of Chicago. It's a wonderful gift in a time period that has seen a really tough economic downturn. So, if Oprah wants to help us, that's great," said John Chikow of the Greater North Michigan Ave. Association.

But one Michigan Avenue resident and former Chicago alderman who would like to remain anonymous says he wishes Oprah would keep her big show inside.

"I'm all in favor of the city helping businesses, but I'm a taxpayer, and the streets belong to me. Let the merchants go and produce their own customers. They shouldn't do it on the taxpayers' dime," he said.

Admission is free for the show taping. The gates at Michigan and Ohio will open at noon on Tuesday, but camping out overnight is not allowed.

For more information, a press release about the event is available here.

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