The City of Chicago’s so-called Party Bus Ordinance is having a significant effect on tour planning by motorcoach operators, according to an online survey by the United Motorcoach Association (UMA).
Nearly 80% of respondents agreed that the ordinance will negatively affect their decision to stop in Chicago, either as a destination or an interim stop on a tour. Yet, most companies responding — 70% — said they would advise any group desiring to travel to Chicago about the ordinance and let them make the decision, knowing there would be extra costs involved.
The online survey was conducted July 30 to August 14, 2018 and received 67 responses from the U.S. and Canada.
UMA is working with an industry coalition concerned with the Chicago ordinance, and that working group is incorporated into the Midwest Bus & Motorcoach Association (MBMCA). The survey’s findings are being presented the MBMCA at their annual meeting this week at Lake Ozark, Mo. It is intended to assist in their efforts to convince Chicago city leaders to amend the ordinance.
The Party Bus Ordinance, which took effect in June of 2017, requires bus groups traveling within the city to have a security guard and camera on board when stopping at any restaurant or venue that serves alcohol, regardless of whether the passengers consume alcohol. Upon entering the city, the bus company is responsible for presenting the ordinance to each passenger. Further, the bus company, driver, and security guard are required to report passenger violations to government authorities.
One respondent reported that their company has altogether “stopped booking trips to Chicago.” Another called the ordinance “ludicrous,” saying it treats “all good and upstanding coach companies who do not partake in party bus rentals as automatically guilty parties. Just because we may bring groups to plays, ballgames, and stay overnight in hotels that serve liquor, we are treated as complicit in undesirable behavior.”
Once group travel planners learn about the new ordinance, it is affecting their travel plans, according to respondents. “We would not even try to deal with this,” said one respondent. “Bringing students into Chicago would be ridiculous to go through all this just to meet a reg that does not apply to my group.” Another pointed out that informed group leaders don’t want the hassle either. “We were recently in Chicago with a group. We informed them of the ordinance and the group made the decision to eat outside of the city. Hotels were also outside the downtown area.”
While 20% of responding companies simply will advise a group they will not travel to Chicago because of the ordinance, 70% will leave it to the customer after informing them of the extra costs involved. “So far,” one respondent said, “most have decided to go somewhere else.”
Three companies responding report being stopped and one of those reported beating five violations in court. Another respondent said they know of others who have been stopped but, the “first time I am stopped and the fine in enforced, is my last time in Chicago.”
"Clearly, this ordinance has struck a chord with motorcoach operators who see it as severely impacting them and their customers' willingness to travel into Chicago, which has always been a top tour destination,” said UMA President/CEO Stacy Tetschner. “We hope the city will take notice of this sentiment and work with the coalition to create a common-sense solution focused narrowly on the offenders rather than responsible coach operators.”