Chicago Revives Promoter Ordinance

A local event promotion ordinance once left for dead has been tweaked and resurrected by the City of Chicago, according to documents released March 3 by the Chicago Music Commission, an independent non-profit formed to support the city’s music community.

The proposed ordinance requiring independent promoters to pay hefty fees and event insurance has its roots in the E2 Club stampede of February 2003 in which 21 people died. In response to the tragedy, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley appointed a committee to review existing building codes and enforcement policies, including permits and insurance requirements.

A previous proposal failed to come to a City Council vote last year.

The CMC acknowledges it has not seen a final version of the ordinance, but posted what it believes is a near-final draft on its Web site and noted that further changes could be made before it comes in front of the City Council’s License and Consumer Protection Committee.

According to the posted documents, the ordinance would require independent promoters to buy hefty liability insurance and pay additional fees ranging from $500 to $2,000 to stage events, including concerts, even if they’re working with fully licensed, insured and well-established venues.

The major change from last year’s version, which was met with howls of protest by promoters, clubs and fans alike, mitigates concerns about high insurance fees by allowing promoters to obtain “multi-event” insurance to reduce costs.

One hitch with this concession, however, is that only one broker in the area offers that type of insurance, according to the Chicago Tribune, and other brokers have not been convinced to adopt it.

It appears the new version of the promoters ordinance will be received as poorly as the original.

“Many members of the music community are very concerned about the potential consequences of this ordinance should it become law, and have not seen a copy of it since an earlier version of it was rescheduled for a vote in 2007,” the Commission wrote.

“CMC believes the ordinance as drafted is not necessary to achieve the City’s stated goals of seeing a more transparent and accountable promoter industry in Chicago,” the statement continues. “And further, [CMC] believes that if the ordinance becomes law, it will create unworkable burdens for many small and young music promoters in Chicago, pressuring a key component of the vibrant Chicago music community instead of supporting and fostering its growth.”

The ordinance would apply to rogue event promoters and legitimate businesses alike. Theoretically, it would apply to Jam Productions promoting concerts at Park West or Metro / Smart Bar as well as to an individual renting a warehouse, hiring a DJ, advertising a party and selling tickets.

“This is an ordinance that came out of the E2 tragedy but really should be directed at the venues, not the promoters,” Jam’s Jerry Mickelson told Pollstar. “You’ve had venues, that have everything to lose, hand the keys over to people and say, ‘It’s all yours, do what you want.’

“If a promoter loses his permit, he can just go out and get another one in somebody else’s name,” Mickelson gave as just one example. “If a venue loses its permit, it’s out of business. It has everything to lose.”

Mickelson is not surprised that the so-called promoters ordinance has come before the committee again, but that it returns with its focus not on venues but on the independent promoters.

“We keep telling them, but they aren’t listening,” Mickelson said.

The ordinance was originally introduced in June 2007 by Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Licensing and approved by the committee in May 2008.

However, it was pulled from the City Council table after the music community argued against it.

The revamped version was not expected to go before the Committee on License and Consumer Protection until at least March 12.