IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship client Chicago Detours explores the hidden nooks and crannies of Chicago’s buildings and history on its tours. These tours are for curious people. Tour groups navigate the mysterious underground passages of Chicago’s Pedway with the help of a knowledgeable guide. Or they learn the ins and outs of prohibition politics as they pass through an old speakeasy on the Good Times Historic Bar Tour. The Jazz & Blues tour bus visits the old site of the Maxwell Street Market, the place where Southern-bred guitar players who came to Chicago in the Great Migration first plugged in and electrified the Blues. All the while, participants share iPads so they can study photos of long-gone buildings, view footage of Blues greats or hear first-hand accounts of the history they are learning.
Amanda Scotese, the founder of Chicago Detours, infuses her business with remarkable creativity. In addition to developing unusual and fascinating tours, she has designed a map of the Pedway’s underground maze, sponsored an artist in residence, introduced inner-city school groups to downtown buildings that they always thought were off limits to them and dreamed up smartphone apps. The opportunities extend as far as her imagination.
With every new business opportunity that Amanda spots with her entrepreneurial eye, there are lots of questions for the University of Chicago law students and IJ attorneys working in the IJ Clinic. Students have drafted contracts for Amanda to use with customers, businesses where the tours visit, a bus company and others. We have researched how copyright applies to maps and whether it is legal to hand out ads for tours on the streets of Chicago. We have helped her strengthen her business in many ways.
Happily though—unlike in other cities where IJ is challenging the government licensing of tour guides—we did not have to help Chicago Detours get the city’s permission before Amanda could research or tell the history of Chicago’s (sometimes pockmarked) past. Amanda’s story is a stark contrast to the story of IJ clients in Washington, D.C., and in New Orleans, who are not allowed to expose the hidden histories of their cities unless the government gives them licenses to do so. Segs in the City cannot talk about the Washington Monument without paying lots of fees and passing a lengthy test. Mary LaCoste can’t give ghost tours in the French Quarter without passing a history test and a drug test. Their governments are trying to censor them in an effort to protect others who wield more political power. Meanwhile, Chicago enjoys the benefits of Amanda’s creative freedom.
Chicago is lucky to have a resident who has built a business like Chicago Detours, which creates jobs for guides, drivers, web designers and others, even as it promotes the city to visitors and residents alike. Amanda has accomplished marvelous things with her freedom of speech and economic liberty. Other cities that restrict such entrepreneurship should reconsider their laws.
The IJ Clinic will continue helping entrepreneurs like Amanda Scotese, who demonstrate just what creative people can build when they are free to do so. And IJ will continue to fight in the courts for entrepreneurs like Segs in the City and Mary LaCoste, who are being shut down by the government before they can even begin to follow in Amanda’s footsteps or, better yet, find a new path. We are working so that someday soon, tour guides may tell the tale of these entrepreneurs’ courageous and historical fights for freedom of speech.
Beth Kregor directs the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School.