Ald. La Spata isn’t waging war on Christmas. He’s just trying to keep pedestrians safe.
Update 12/6/22, 3:45 PM. This afternoon La Spata tweeted out this thread about the Irish Nobleman situation.
Update 12/6/22, 10:15 AM: A photo the Chicago Department of Transportation provided to Block Club Chicago confirmed that the Irish Nobleman’s Christmas decorations were, in fact, badly blocking driver’s views of pedestrians crossing in the east leg of the Erie/Noble intersection. The inflatables also made it more difficult for non-turning eastbound drivers to see pedestrians entering the street.
According to a CBS Chicago report, the owner of West Town’s Irish Nobleman pub is complaining that local alderperson Daniel La Spata (1st) forced him to take down his holiday patio decorations as political revenge for the bar hosting fundraisers for the City Council member’s challengers. But a quick perusal of footage and aerials of the bar suggests that’s a bogus conspiracy theory.
At La Spata’s request, on Friday Chicago Department of Transportation public way inspectors visited the Irish Nobleman, located at Erie Street and Noble Avenue (get it?) on Friday, CBS reported. The city staffers ordered the bar to to take down its giant inflatable decorations, including Santa, a stack of presents, snowmen, reindeer, and more, or face a $1,000 fine. The alder told the news station that he requested the inspection because it appeared the decor was blocking drivers’ sight lines and violating city code.
Pub owner owner Declan Morgan should know a thing or two about traffic safety issues, since the tavern has reportedly seen an epidemic of reckless driving. In fall 2020 he and his wife Candace petitioned neighbors to support the installation of speed bumps in the area. They said motorists whipping around the corner at high speeds often struck planter boxes on the sidewalk, as well as the yellow barricades they installed.
Declan Morgan insisted to CBS that La Spata’s call to CDOT was “retaliation” against the bar for hosting events for the alder’s opponents Sam Royko and previous 1st Ward rep Proco “Joe” Moreno.
Speaking of driving, the latter previously got in trouble with the law for falsely reporting his car stolen, and later crashing into eight parked vehicles while driving drunk. And when La Spata held a ward bike ride last October, Moreno was in a group of people on the sidelines, one of whom threw a cup of cider at the current alder.
“Neighbors love it,” Declan Morgan said to CBS about his bulky Christmas decorations. “The community loves it. Why is this on Alderman La Spata’s desk, even?”
La Spata denied the inspection was politically motivated. And a cursory review of the site strongly suggests he’s telling the truth.
As you can see from the aerial above, the pub is located at the southeast corner corner of Erie/Noble. And the Google Street View below shows that the crosswalks on the south and east legs of the intersection run through different sections of the outdoor seating area.
As you can see above, even without the inflatable decorations, the view of a person in the crosswalk on the east leg of the intersection near the south sidewalk is partially blocked by the yellow barricades, the picnic table, a planter, and a heat lamp. That increases the chance that a northbound driver on Noble making an eastbound right turn onto Erie could fail to see a pedestrian in the crosswalk in time to avoid striking them.
The CBS footage shows decorations attached to the barricades at the southeast corner. When these were fully inflated, the sight lines were probably significantly worse for northbound drivers making an eastbound right. Depending on how large the inflatables were, they might have also made it harder non-turning eastbound drivers on Erie to see people stepping off the sidewalk.
So it’s pretty clear La Spata wasn’t being alarmist by suggesting that some of the decorations might pose a safety hazard, and it certainly doesn’t appear he was trying to inflict political payback. After all, nothing puts a damper on the holiday spirit like a driver striking a person in a crosswalk because they were obscured by a giant inflatable Grinch.