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Chicago Promoters Face Tough New Licensing Rules

CHICAGO, (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Five years after the E2 nightclub tragedy in which 21 patrons were trampled to death in a stampede after event security used pepper-spray, the City has moved to institute new regulations for event promoters.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the City Council's License Committee has approved an ordinance that requires promoters to be fingerprinted and licensed in a process that could cost as much as $2,000. They will also be required to carry $300,000 in general liability insurance and a prospective promoter must be 21 years of age and pass a criminal background check with felony convictions, suspensions or revocations within 5 years being grounds for denial.

Furthermore, promoters would need to notify the commander of the local police district of their event and sign a contract with venue owners that clearly spells out exactly who is responsible for what, confirm their awareness of the maximum venue capacity and provide a list of special effects or equipment that might prove hazardous.

Tough stuff, but perhaps appreciative of the burgeoning music scene in the windy city, the licensing committee has made provisions to allow the bigger venues – those with a fixed seating of 500 or more – to be exempt from these new regs.

That's cold comfort for Jam Productions' Jerry Mickelson.

"When I look at the business we do at the Park West [160 seats] and the Vic [250 seats], a good majority of our revenue is from outside promoters. Many of them are … little-time guys who rent our venue maybe once a year [or] once every other year. They can't afford to pay $500 or $1,000 for license fees" Mickelson told the Sun-Times, We're so selective in who we allow into our venues, losing any more puts us at a danger of not operating profitably. … It's tough enough to stay in business. … We struggle each year to meet our nut. This ordinance will cause us to lose events."

Mickelson contends that legitimate promoters shouldn't be lumped in with the less formal elements. "At E2, they club owners said, 'Okay, guys. You're renting my venue. Here's the keys to my house. I'll see you tomorrow.' That doesn't happen with a responsibly run venue. It's vastly different than the way we operate"

The licensing committee doesn't concur with Mickelson's assessment and instead of the new regulations stifling effect on the live entertainment business in Chicago, they think it will stoke the fires by creating opportunity for licensed promoters by getting rid of the "fly-by-nights."

"There's no security. They over-market. … You have 500 people showing up for a venue that can only accommodate 250, so people are waiting [outside] and disturbing the quality of life for people in the neighborhood. … Now, they're going to be held accountable." alderman and License Committee Chairman Eugene Schulter told the Sun-Times.

The ordinance will be brought up before the full city council next week. Michelson told CelebrityAccess that while he is very sympathetic to what the city is trying to accomplish, he thinks that there is a better way to go about it.

"The city makes the venue owners responsible paying the amusement tax because they don't trust the promoter, but they will trust the promoter to be responsible for the safety and well being of the crowd," Michelson said "It just doesn't make sense." – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers