|By Kathy Bergen, Chicago
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 20, 2011--Fears that the annual restaurant show will leave town next year rather than share the city with concurrent NATO and G8 meetings appear to be easing.
The National Restaurant Association is close to accepting dates that are two weeks earlier in May, with the city sweetening the deal with financial concessions, according to sources close to the negotiations.
The show's organizers are asking the city to make up financial losses that might stem from the date change, a source said.
The annual show is a cornerstone of the city's convention business, and sources say the city is determined to hold on to it. While negotiations are not concluded and things could unravel, insiders expect a formal announcement within days.
Jim Reilly, the trustee overseeing McCormick Place, said, "It's no secret different dates were being discussed, but how close to a decision they are, I don't know."
A restaurant association spokesman said there is no agreement at this time. He declined further comment.
The NATO/G8 meetings will draw global leaders, including the heads of the world's eight largest industrialized nations, each of whom will travel with a large entourage and each of whom require security measures that could tie up portions of the city.
The NATO/G8 events are expected to fill 10,000 hotel rooms next May 15-22, competing directly with the annual restaurant show set for May 19-22. The restaurant show drew 58,000 attendees this year, packing the city's hotels and restaurants. The show generated an estimated $93.3 million in spending here, according to the city's convention bureau.
When news of the NATO/G8 meetings broke in June, shortly after the most recent restaurant show ended, its organizers were taken by surprise, and not pleasantly so, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The city offered the show different dates, May 5-8, and has been working to help it rearrange hotel bookings.
Meanwhile, the show has been checking out alternative sites, including the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The show also looked into sites in Las Vegas, sources said.
The NATO/G8 conflict added anger to a tense situation, as the restaurant show was among a number of the city's primary trade show customers who are frustrated that a federal court has overturned state-imposed labor rule changes at the convention center.
Those rules, aimed at allowing exhibitors to cut their costs and hassles by doing more of their own work, were well-received by many exhibitors. McCormick Place officials are appealing the court ruling, and state and city officials say they will be meeting to determine next steps to keep the center competitive with lower-cost rivals.
Loss of the restaurant show would be a tremendous setback for the city.
If the show left, even for a year, observers believe it would be difficult to woo it back because the new host city would bend over backward to hold onto it.
To see more of the Chicago Tribune, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.chicagotribune.com.
Copyright (c) 2011, Chicago Tribune
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com. NASDAQ:CHCO,