Friday Morning Swim Club canceled due to high permit costs, organizers say

The popular Friday Morning Swim Club, which drew thousands to the waters of Lake Michigan near Montrose Harbor each summer, has been canceled this year after organizers said the Chicago Park District charged six figures to permit the event.

In a video posted to the club’s Instagram account, co-founders Nicole Novotny and Andrew Glatt said that the Park District had made “unreasonable demands” as they tried to reach an agreement.

Safety concerns led to the unsanctioned event’s early cancellation last year.

“It seemed clear to us that the Chicago Park District was not interested in making this work,” Glatt said in the video.

Participants first plunged into the harbor with the Friday Morning Swim Club in 2021. Glatt told the Tribune two years ago that the club drew 600 to 800 swimmers weekly and continued to surge in popularity. By last summer, thousands came out for the weekly swim. Most events with over 50 people require permits, according to the Park District’s website.

Organizers said in the video that they were quoted $108,000 to use the section of the harbor. Lifeguards, portable toilets, transportation plans and other business expenses raised the total estimated costs to $250,000 to $300,000.

“While we don’t have concerns about raising any amount via corporate sponsors … it’s a free event. We’ve always remained a free event,” Glatt said. “It’s not going to turn into a money-making machine for anybody.”

They also expressed frustrations that the Park District would not allow floaties in the harbor. The pair still encouraged fans to continue to swim along the lakefront.

“We can’t legally host organized swims or encourage you guys to go at a certain time of the week, but the lake is our favorite part of Chicago and we promise we will continue to enjoy it safely,” Novotny said.

The Park District did not immediately return a request for comment.