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Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) Peter Cunningham and the Bread and Butter Band performs on October 11 at The Hideout’s new location on the Chicago Riverwalk. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

City scouting for more Riverwalk concessions

21-Oct-15 – As the new Riverwalk’s first season winds down, the City of Chicago is looking for concession operators for next year. A “notice of availability” was issued on October 16, seeking a mix of recreational, cultural, entertainment, food and beverage, and retail facilities.

Existing concession operators have understood they are not necessarily a permanent fixture on the Riverwalk and would have to re-apply for next year. Chosen concessions will get a one-year contract with the possibility of a one-year extension.

New businesses this year included bars, a music venue, and a dock for motorized boats visiting the Riverwalk. But the mayor’s office offered more ideas for possible concessions, such as facilities for human-powered boating, retail stores “of a cultural or environmental nature,” educational facilities, or “any other type of family-friendly concessions.”

Photo by Steven Dahlman (Left) People and kayaks along The Cove on June 14.

The season will end on Sunday, November 1, for the 14 businesses on the Riverwalk. Not all of them are certain they will be back next year but the consensus is that this year went well. Two new stretches of Riverwalk, Marina Plaza from State Street to Dearborn Street and The Cove from Dearborn to Clark Street, opened to the public on May 23 – River Theater opened on June 12 between Clark and LaSalle Streets – but the first concessions did not open until June 11.

The last concession to open was The Hideout, on August 20, when the bluegrass quartet The Wandering Boys performed for a crowd of about 250 people on the Riverwalk west of Wabash Avenue.

“The season went great,” says James Morro, owner and manager of Urban Kayaks. “The city did an amazing job promoting the walk and driving traffic. It was a very successful year by any definition. We look forward to many more and will be applying to remain where we are next season.”

(Right) A Comitti speedboat, belonging to the man at upper right, is docked along the Riverwalk west of State Street on June 13. Photo by Steven Dahlman

Ron Silvia, owner of Downtown Docks, says the season was “great” for them, too. “We were open just in time for the July 4th holiday weekend and we look forward to the opportunity to grow and serve our customers in 2016.”

And while a spokesperson for City Winery says it is “too early at this time to comment” on next year, the wine bar west of State Street clearly benefited from being on a stretch of new Riverwalk that opened first and had particularly high traffic all summer.

Photo by Steven Dahlman “Throughout the summer, huge crowds visited the Riverwalk,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Saturday, “and on high volume days some Riverwalk restaurants reported 45-minute waits for tables and many of the paddling excursions and bike tours were sold to capacity.”

The mayor expects the city to receive “a large number of highly competitive proposals” for the 2016 season of the Riverwalk, what Emanuel calls “the next great recreational frontier of our great city.”

(Left) Backed by musicians and cast members from the musical Million Dollar Quartet, Mayor Emanuel speaks to a crowd on the Chicago Riverwalk on June 27.

A pre-proposal meeting is scheduled for November 4 at City Hall for vendors interested in participating. Proposals, due on December 2, will be reviewed by a committee of “city personnel familiar with the Riverwalk.” Their criteria will include each vendor’s experience and qualifications, operations plan, projected sales, and how much the city will make off the concession.

(Right) Tables and chairs inside Flander’s Belgian Beer and Fries on the Riverwalk west of Dearborn Street on June 10. Photo by Steven Dahlman

Franklin Street Bridge closed Thursday through Sunday

As construction of Phase 3 of the Riverwalk continues, the city announced the Franklin Street Bridge will be closed for four days starting on October 22. Chicago Department of Transportation says the bridge needs to be raised so that the under-bridge section of Riverwalk can be installed. The bridge will close to all traffic at 6 a.m. on Thursday and re-open on Sunday. Northbound vehicles will be detoured to LaSalle Street, then west on Grand Avenue.

Phase 3 will extend the Riverwalk from the west side of LaSalle Street to the north side of Lake Street by the fall of 2016.