Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to raise the local concert tax has outraged pro sports teams, who say the plan would hurt fans and would ultimately put a dent in the city’s overall entertainment revenue.
The Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, Bears and White Sox posted nearly identical statements on their websites this week decrying the move, which is part of Emanuel’s 2018 city budget proposal and would eliminate the tax on smaller theaters and venues, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The plan doesn’t affect ticket prices for sporting events, which have a 9 percent city tax plus Cook County’s 3 percent amusement tax. However, the teams host some of the city’s largest concerts at their venues.
“Chicago stands alone for many reasons that we can be proud of — but having the highest amusement taxes for fans attending sports and concerts in the United States should not be one of them,” the statement said. “By driving this tax to one of the highest in the country, Chicago will lose concerts. As the shows leave, so do the dollars that flow through restaurants, cabs and hotels on any given show night. And despite what our political leaders believe, the losses will far surpass any gains a tax increase was intended to garner.”
A 5 percent tax is currently applied to every concert that is put on at venues with capacities of 750 seats or higher, according to the Chicago Tribune. But under Emanuel’s plan, venues with capacities of 750 to 1,499 would no longer be taxed, while those with 1,500 seats or larger would have a 9 percent amusement tax rate.
That means touring Broadway shows like “Hamilton” also would see a larger tax burden.
Emanuel also is proposing a hike in Uber fees and 911 tax, which his office says along with concert tax increase would eliminate a $288 million city budget shortfall, Pollstar reports. The mayor also estimates a higher concert tax would generate as much as $15.8 million in new revenue for the city.
Next year’s budget proposal is subject to city council approval.
In as statement to the Tribune, Emanuel hailed the proposal for giving mid-sized venues a break so they have a better chance to thrive.
“Chicago’s neighborhoods are filled with community theater groups and live music venues. They are part of the fabric of our communities, and a part of what makes Chicago so unique,” Emanuel said. “I don’t think we should stifle the culture of our neighborhoods by taxing Thalia Hall in Pilsen or the Metro in Lakeview at the same rate we’re taxing a 40,000 seat concert venue.”
The city’s pro sports teams, though, say the mayor needs to think about the long-term effects of the tax plan.
“World class entertainers like Billy Joel and Lady Gaga who perform at Wrigley Field have their choice of venues and the new proposal puts Chicago venues at a disadvantage compared to locations outside the city which can attract talent with lesser taxes,” a spokesman for the Chicago Cubs told the Sun-Times. “When these artists choose to go elsewhere, Chicago loses.”