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Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Northalsted

TBOX Bar Crawl Won’t Go On As Planned After City Denies Permit Because Of Coronavirus

Founder Christopher Festa said he hoped the crawl could be adapted to offer a safer experience during the pandemic, but he understood why the city rejected his permit.

The Twelve Bars of Christmas crawl will return Dec. 11 after being canceled last year due to the pandemic.
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WRIGLEYVILLE — TBOX, the Christmas-themed bar crawl that brings thousands of inebriated partygoers to Wrigleyville every winter, was denied its request to hold the event during the coronavirus pandemic.

The city is not issuing any special event permits for in-person outdoor festivals, athletic events or non-essential markets, said Christine Carrino, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. That includes the Twelve Bars of Christmas bar crawl.

Christopher Festa, who started TBOX in 1996, told Eater he wasn’t happy the city rejected his permit, but he understood why, calling his event “literally the exact opposite of social distancing.”

The bar crawl has an infamous reputation of its partygoers causing drunken mayhem and violence in the neighborhood, including in 2014 when one man stabbed another with a broken beer bottle at the now-closed Red Ivy.

According to Eater, Festa hoped TBOX, which was set for Dec. 12, could go on this year while adapting to the coronavirus pandemic to offer a safer experience.

“I really wanted to have the event if there was a huge sentiment of people that would feel safe attending and that it would be a happy, lighthearted event — not something politicized, or with dark cloud of fear or concern over it,” Festa said.

According to TBOX’s website, Festa started the bar crawl to “have a party without my friends trashing my one-bedroom apartment.” But supporting bars through the winter months has always been part of its mission.

After six months of coronavirus-related shutdowns, capacity limits and other restrictions, Wrigleyville bar owners have said many are struggling to stay afloat and some close for good this winter without support.

The city promised to crack down on large gatherings at bars after droves of young people — many without face masks — flocked to Wrigleyville when bars reopened in June.

Weeks later, city officials blamed a spike in new coronavirus infections among 18- to 29-year-olds on young people not following safety guidelines at the bars.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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