Indie Chicago Music Venues Fight Against Proposed Live Nation Venues

A new expansion from Sterling Bay has many in Chicago’s music community worried about the future of the city’s indie music scene. A group of independent music venues in Chicago have banded together to protest a proposed development that would include several new venues run by Live Nation.

Last week, Empty Bottle, The Hideout, Thalia Hall, Metro, Subterranean, Schubas, Lincoln Hall and others teamed up to form the Chicago Independent Venues League or C.I.V.L, to voice their concerns about the new development, which they fear will stifle and push out independent music venues.

“We represent a creative force in this city that has influenced music and entertainment culture around the world,” Joe Shanahan, owner of Metro, Gman Tavern, and Smartbar, said. “We are business people and leaders in our communities. Our performance venues represent not only a critical economic engine for the city, they provide the cultural heartbeat of Chicago.”

The group wants the city to slow down on Sterling Bay’s proposed development, The Lincoln Yards, which would include several new venues that would be owned and operated by Live Nation/Ticketmaster. They currently operate two venues in the city: The House of Blues and Aragon Ballroom.

This is problematic for different reasons one being Live Nation forces bands to sign a “radius clause” meaning they can’t play any other venue within several miles. The company also owns Lollapalooloza and for years bands who played the festival performed after parties at neighborhood-based venues. The owners of the venues argue that if Lincoln Yards happens all the local clubs are at risk to lose business.

Another problem surrounds Sterling Bay’s request for the city to create a 168-acre TIF district in the area that would generate an estimated $800 million in taxpayer-funding that would see most of the funds redirected to subsidize private development. The Empty Bottle tweeted that the project “will use tax money to close Chicago’s independent music venues.”

Sterling Bay revealed their plans during a meeting on Thursday (Nov. 29) though it left more questions than answers. To make things even worse, the developer never answered whether they’d abandon the project if they didn’t receive TIF financing. They did however show off their revised plan, which includes reduced skyscraper heights, more green spaces, but it wasn’t enough to put the fears of venue owners to rest.

“We aren’t looking to oppose this development,” CIVL co-chair Katie Tuten said. “But it’s a big deal that will affect not only our neighborhood, but the entire city. We want responsible development and transparency in the process to get there.” She continues “We believe all of the objections should be addressed, all of the questions answered and the new mayor and City Council should be in place before the developers get a green light.”

When questioned on when the entertainment district would come in, Dean Marks, Sterling Bay’s general counsel, told Robert Gomez, co-chair of CIVL, the specifics of the deal have “yet to be determined.”

Whether or not the city listens to their concerns, Gomez assures they won’t stop fighting.

“We’re just asking to sit at the table and talk about what needs to be done and what should be done,” Gomez said. “We’re going to keep pounding at this until we start getting answers — they gotta reveal it at some point, maybe after they build it they’ll tell us what they’re doing … but some time before then we should know what’s going on.”

For more information visit CIVL’s website and make sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, The Crypt 1331, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Reality-Comics. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Marilyn Manson, and Green Day.

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