Vendors: Early Taste closing hurt sales

July 5, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Some food vendors say the change that was designed to save the city money has left them hurting.

Charlie Robinson and his Number One Ribs are a big part of the Taste of Chicago, but he says this year's changes to the annual food fest's big night made a big difference.

"It affected the entire Taste, the entire Taste, not only me, or other vendors, but it was the beer sales, the beverage, everything was affected," said Robinson.

The rib vendor says cutting the fireworks and two hours of business on July 3 hurt his bottom line.

"We normally on the 3rd run anywhere from 60 to $65,000 on that one day…this year that particular number was cut in half," said Robinson. "I feel we lost in those two hours, we lost $8,000, just in those two hours, and we know with the economy and everything else, we need every dime we can because it's tough times now."

"It cut back a lot, it cut back a real lot on the crowds, I mean, it cut down business," said employee Cory Robinson. "But I mean we still pulled it out."

Robinson's was not the only vendor that experienced a difference.

Last year's July 3rd celebration created $2.4 million of ticket sales. This year that number was cut nearly in half to only $1.3 million in ticket sales on July 3rd.

"The event was created 30 years ago as a marketing piece for these restaurants to showcase their businesses," said David Kennedy of the Mayor's Office of Special Events. "It wasn't intended for the restauranteurs to make large amounts of money.

Kennedy says vendors were aware of this year's changes when they signed their contracts.

"It's a business decision, and if they're doing the Taste of Chicago to make money I think they need to reevaluate that because public safety is number one in our books," said Kennedy.

The Mayor's Office of Special Events says even though ticket sales on the third were down by 45 percent, overall, they were only down by 7 percent.

City officials say that by shutting down early on July 3, they saved about $200,000.

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