Congress Theater allowed to remain open, next inspection scheduled

April 23, 2013

By WBEZ

An inspection of the Congress Theater Monday found sufficient progress to remain open at least for the next few weeks.

"The majority of the most serious violations are complied," according to Judy Frydland, the lawyer representing the city.

Those violations include poor wiring, ventilation and obstructed exits, among other things.

Last week Frydland told DNA Info Chicago that the Congress now has fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors, improved wiring, and a functional fire curtain. It's not clear if ventilation issues have been addressed.

"We're going to pursue this case until they're in compliance," Frydland said in court on Tuesday. Judge James McGing then ruled that the theater can continue selling tickets to upcioming shows as long as capacity on the main floor is capped at 3,000.

The second and third floors of the 87-year-old venue have been closed since January and will remain blocked off to concert-goers until violations on those balconies are remedied.

City agencies will hold another inspection the week of the next hearing on May 9. But the building violations are not the only problem that controversial venue owner Erineo "Eddie" Carranza faces.

The next hearing in Liquor Commission proceedings that could cost Carranza his liquor license takes place a week from today, on Tuesday, April 30. And the next session of Deleterious Impact/Public Nuisance hearings against the theater take place on Tuesday, May 7, continuing the closer look that city officials and neighbors first initiated in March 2012.

The controversy surrounding the theater continues to shock other Chicago venue owners and music promoters, whose memories are long. They maintain that if the city had been quicker to scrutinize the E2 nightclub and penalize existing building violations there, 21 people may not have died in a 2003 tragedy.

"I can't understand how [Carranza] has stayed open as long as he has, or why the city lets him continue," said the owner of a venue a quarter of the size of the Congress. "I've been hassled for much, much less, and you can't even complain, because it's about public safety."

Another promoter questioned why the city was "raising a red flag so late in the game. We all know Eddie is negligent, but what about the city?"

Added yet another live music insider: "That list of infractions at the Congress scares the s--t out of me."

Alison Cuddy contributed to this report. 

Earlier reports about Carranza, the Congress and the Portage theaters:

April 17: City wants the Congress shut down immediately

March 27: Chicago police official: Congress Theater ‘untruthful’ on night of underage drinking

March 8: The fate of the Portage remains a messy mystery

March 6: Congress Theater hearing rescheduled

Feb. 22: Congress Theater restoration underway, but it’s got a long way to go

Jan. 16: Congress Theater liquor hearings begin with undercover cop’s testimony

Dec. 3, 2012: A rally to save the Portage Theater ‘as we know it’

Nov. 28, 2012: The Portage Theater uses Graham Elliot’s name in vain

Nov. 2, 2012: Congress Theater’s new security chief: An ex-cop with a troubled past

Oct. 31, 2012: Congress Theater police calls rank with Soldier Field, United Center

Sept. 23, 2012: How did things turn so bad so fast at the Portage Theater?

Sept. 22, 2012: New Owner of the Portage Theater moves to evict current operators

Sept. 16, 2012: Congress Theater splits with development partner

Sept. 11, 2012: The Portage Theater: What’s Eddie up to?

July 26, 2012: Congress Theater partners up… and looks to expand

April 14, 2012: More trouble at the Congress Theater

March 28, 2012: Critical of Congress security, headliner brings his own

March 25, 2012: Congress Theater responds to complaints

March 22, 2012: City to Congress Theater: Clean up your act!

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