WBEZ | Eddie Caranza http://www.wbez.org/tags/eddie-caranza Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Congress Theater defends itself before the Liquor Commission http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-04/congress-theater-defends-itself-liquor-commission-106912 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1congress%20theater_flickr_ian%20friemuth.jpg" title="(flickr/Ian Friemuth)" /></div><p>After two sessions of damning testimony presented by the city which could result in the revocation of his liquor license, embattled Congress Theater owner Erineo &ldquo;Eddie&rdquo; Carranza had his turn to defend himself Tuesday in the third proceeding before Deputy Hearings Commissioner Robert Nolan.</p><p>Harlan Powell, Carranza&rsquo;s fourth attorney in the last seven months, called three witnesses to refute the earlier evidence presented by the city.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-01/congress-theater-liquor-hearings-begin-undercover-cops-testimony-104950">The first hearing in mid-January</a> included testimony from an undercover police officer with the Chicago vice squad who was investigating complaints that theater security guards seize drugs from concertgoers and resell them. Police also reported five incidents that &ldquo;violated a state law regulating narcotics or controlled substances&rdquo; at the venue between September 3, 2011, and April 15, 2012, and a patron testified that that he was beaten by venue security after a show on May 27.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-03/chicago-police-official-congress-theater-untruthful-night-underage">At the second hearing in late March</a>, a Chicago Police sergeant testified that Congress staffers lied about serving alcohol when his unit arrived to investigate suspicions of underage drinking during a DJ Rusko set in May 2012. Nolan also heard testimony that the emergency room of Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center in Wicker Park reported several concertgoers &ldquo;of various ages&rdquo; arriving from the Congress in a private ambulance with symptoms of extreme intoxication, many of them &ldquo;barely breathing,&rdquo; and that the staff had not reported to police a large fight during a Chief Keef show in April 2012.</p><p>On Tuesday, Ahmad Mahidi, manager of the Congress since 2004, testified that on the night of the DJ Rusko set last May, Chicago police officers arrived and asked Mahidi if staffers were serving alcohol inside. Mahidi said they were, then called his brother Atieh, speaking over a walkie-talkie in Arabic, and told him to turn off the 10 beer taps, even though police had not instructed the venue to do so.</p><p>The testimony conflicted with Sgt. Joseph Giambrone&rsquo;s testimony in March, and Assistant Corporation Counsel Maggie Shiels challenged Mahidi in cross-examination. Giambrone said that when he asked Mahidi if they were serving alcohol at the venue, Mahidi said no, gave instructions in Arabic through the walkie-talkie, then ran ahead of the police officers into the venue. When the officers walked inside, they observed Mahidi and his brother turning off the taps, Giambrone said.</p><p>Also testifying for Carranza: Jonathan Errum, who has worked security at the Congress for two years. He testified that after the DJ Armin van Buuren show ended &ldquo;before midnight&rdquo; on May 26, 2012, he got a call on the walkie-talkie from Chris Willis, a security guard with electronic dance music concert promoters React Presents, who said that a patron spit on him outside the theater and he needed assistance.</p><p>Errum said he then went to the back alley with two other security guards and saw concertgoer Marco Garcia handcuffed and held by Willis and another React Presents security guard, Ramon Montenegro. Errum claims to have never touched Garcia, and he said that Mahidi was not present when he led them to the security office. He also said that he had never met Willis or Montenegro before this incident, and he never saw them again after.</p><p>Again, the city attorney challenged the witness, saying that he did in fact see Montenegro again on January 15, 2012, during the first Liquor Commission hearing. Garcia also identified them on that date in January, saying they were part of the group of six to eight security guards who attacked him in the alley. Garcia further testified that Mahidi was the one who released his handcuffs, and was present for much of the ordeal, which Errum denies.</p><p>Errum also was present on the night of the fight that undercover cop Officer Robert McCallum witnessed on April 13, 2012, during the Chief Keef concert. Errum testified that a heated exchange began in the lobby &ldquo;between 9 and 10 p.m.&rdquo; and got physical outside. He said they broke up the fight involving about 10 men in two to three minutes minutes, and then they dispersed.</p><p>McCallum told a much different story in January, testifying that the fight started inside just before 10:15 p.m., and a call for more police assistance was placed at 10:18. During a testy 10-minute back-and-forth, Commissioner Nolan said there either were two fights&mdash;one that only occurred outside, as Errum claims, and one that Officer McCallum witnessed inside the venue&mdash;or one of the witnesses is lying.</p><p>Finally, Carranza called Rizwan Hussain, project manager and soon-to-be-licensed architect working on improvements at the 87-year-old theater.</p><p>Powell called Hussain to the stand to refute <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-22/city-congress-theater-clean-your-act-97549">the Public Nuisance/Deleterious Impact charge</a>, since he claimed to have been involved in renovating the Congress Theater even before these charges were filed in March 2012. However, Shiels objected and Commissioner Nolan sustained on the grounds that the city is not prosecuting the physical condition of the building&mdash;at least in this case.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-04/city-wants-congress-theater-shut-down-immediately-106698">In separate legal proceedings initiated by the city</a>, the Congress is being sued to correct a literally A-to-Z list of &ldquo;hazardous, dangerous&rdquo; conditions at the venue. The judge in that case <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-04/congress-theater-allowed-remain-open-next-inspection-scheduled-106799">is allowing the main floor of the theater to remain open</a> pending the next city inspection, but the second and third floors have been closed to the public since January, and capacity has been reduced from 5,000 to 3,000.</p><p>The hearing ended with closing arguments as Shiels maintained that police officers Giambrone and McCallum and concertgoer Garcia are credible witnesses who have no reason to lie about what they saw, while people associated with the Congress have a lot to lose if the venue loses its liquor license.</p><p>Powell responded that the police reports for the Public Nuisance charge were &ldquo;lazy legislation&rdquo; and hearsay, while Garcia&rsquo;s testimony was more confusing than compelling since he identified the security guards &ldquo;by clothing&rdquo; and not as &ldquo;individual people.&rdquo;</p><p>The attorney added that Carranza is in an impossible situation of &ldquo;damned if you do, and damned if you don&rsquo;t&rdquo; because &ldquo;none of these incidents would have come to the city&rsquo;s attention without the licensee reporting them.&rdquo; Carranza reported these incidents to the city as required, and now he&rsquo;s being punished for it, Powell said, concluding that arrest reports aren&rsquo;t enough evidence to declare the business a public nuisance.</p><p>Nolan closed the hearing by saying he will take the case under advisement and make a recommendation to the Liquor Commission at an unspecified time in the future. The next session of Deleterious Impact/Public Nuisance hearings against the theater takes place on Tuesday, May 7, while the next hearing on the physical violations at the building takes place on May 9.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett" target="_blank">Leah Pickett</a> blogs for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a>.</em></p><p><strong><u>Earlier reports about Carranza, the Congress and the Portage theaters:</u></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-04/congress-theater-allowed-remain-open-next-inspection-scheduled-106799">April 23: Congress Theater allowed to remain open, next inspection scheduled</a> (Alison Cuddy reporting)</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-04/city-wants-congress-theater-shut-down-immediately-106698"><u>April 17: City wants the Congress shut down immediately</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-03/chicago-police-official-congress-theater-untruthful-night-underage"><u>March 27: Chicago police official: Congress Theater &lsquo;untruthful&rsquo; on night of underage drinking</u></a> (Leah Pickett reporting)</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/fate-portage-theater-remains-mystery-105970"><u>March 8: The fate of the Portage remains a messy mystery</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/congress-theater-liquor-hearing-rescheduled-105941"><u>March 6: Congress Theater hearing rescheduled</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-02/congress-theater-restoration-underway-it%E2%80%99s-got-long-way-go-105685"><u>Feb. 22: Congress Theater restoration underway, but it&rsquo;s got a long way to go</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-01/congress-theater-liquor-hearings-begin-undercover-cops-testimony-104950"><u>Jan. 16: Congress Theater liquor hearings begin with undercover cop&rsquo;s testimony</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-12/rally-save-portage-theater-we-know-it-104169"><u>Dec. 3, 2012: A rally to save the Portage Theater &lsquo;as we know it&rsquo;</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-11/portage-theater-uses-graham-elliot%E2%80%99s-name-vain-104089"><u>Nov. 28, 2012: The Portage Theater uses Graham Elliot&rsquo;s name in vain</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-11/congress-theaters-new-security-chief-ex-cop-troubled-past-103611"><u>Nov. 2, 2012: Congress Theater&rsquo;s new security chief: An ex-cop with a troubled past</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-10/congress-theater-police-calls-rank-soldier-field-united-center-103569"><u>Oct. 31, 2012: Congress Theater police calls rank with Soldier Field, United Center</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/how-did-things-turn-so-bad-so-fast-portage-theater-102606"><u>Sept. 23, 2012: How did things turn so bad so fast at the Portage Theater?</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/new-owner-portage-theater-moves-evict-current-operators-102602"><u>Sept. 22, 2012: New Owner of the Portage Theater moves to evict current operators</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/congress-theater-splits-development-partner-102451"><u>Sept. 16, 2012: Congress Theater splits with development partner</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/portage-theater-what%E2%80%99s-eddie-102350"><u>Sept. 11, 2012: The Portage Theater: What&rsquo;s Eddie up to?</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-07/congress-theater-partners-up%E2%80%A6-and-looks-expand-101199"><u>July 26, 2012: Congress Theater partners up&hellip; and looks to expand</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-04/more-trouble-congress-theater-98249"><u>April 14, 2012: More trouble at the Congress Theater</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-28/critical-congress-security-headliner-brings-his-own-97696"><u>March 28, 2012: Critical of Congress security, headliner brings his own</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-25/congress-theater-responds-complaints-97597"><u>March 25, 2012: Congress Theater responds to complaints</u></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-22/city-congress-theater-clean-your-act-97549"><u>March 22, 2012: City to Congress Theater: Clean up your act!</u></a></p></p> Tue, 30 Apr 2013 16:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-04/congress-theater-defends-itself-liquor-commission-106912 The Portage Theater: What’s Eddie up to? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/portage-theater-what%E2%80%99s-eddie-102350 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/576px-Portage_Theater.jpg" style="height: 733px; width: 550px; " title="The Portage Theater (Wikimedia Commons)" /></div><p>It&rsquo;s official: As of a week ago Friday, Erineo &ldquo;Eddie&rdquo; Carranza, owner and operator of the embattled Congress Theater in Logan Square, now also owns <a href="http://www.portagetheater.org/Home/">the Portage Theater</a>, that 1,325-seat gem of a 1920s movie palace at Six Corners on the city&rsquo;s Northwest Side.</p><p>But what does he want to do with it? And, given the many complaints from the community and city officials about the way he&rsquo;s running the Congress, what can his new neighbors and fans of the Portage expect?</p><p>Carranza was typically uncommunicative when I traded emails with him yesterday. Though this blogger has done five stories totaling more than 10,000 words about the Congress since March, he started by asking what media organization I worked for. (Um, that would be WBEZ/Chicago Public Media.)</p><p>&ldquo;Have you ever been to Portage Theater?&rdquo; Carranza responded.</p><p>Sure, many times. I used to live at Six Corners.</p><p>&ldquo;What do you want to report on the condition of the theater?&rdquo; Carranza asked.</p><p>&ldquo;Eddie: I am interested in what you hope to accomplish with the theater, either physically or in terms of the kind of programming you hope to do there,&rdquo; I wrote at 4 p.m. Monday. I wrote again a few hours later to reiterate that I&rsquo;d like a comment. So far, no response.</p><p>Some background: The first theater in the area built specifically for movies rather than vaudeville, the Portage opened in December 1920 with 1,938 seats, and a grand place it was for several decades. Like many venues of its vintage, however, it has become increasingly expensive to maintain in recent years. Though it&rsquo;s in much better shape than the Congress, it needs a significant amount of work, including extensive repairs to the roof.</p><p>Partnering with hardcore film buffs in organizations such as the Silent Film Society of Chicago and the Northwest Chicago Film Society, David Dziedzic and the management team currently in place have for years offered a rich calendar of eclectic film programming. Their lease runs through 2015, but they owe some back rent, according to <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-06/entertainment/chi-portage-theater-chicago-sold-20120906_1_new-owner-chicago-tabernacle-portage-theater">The Chicago <em>Tribune</em></a>.</p><p>Earlier this year, the Chicago Tabernacle bid $2.5 million to buy the venue and turn it into a church, but that plan was opposed by community groups and Ald. John Arena (45th). Dziedzic and his group thought they had placed a winning bid to replace that one, according to press accounts, but they were edged out by Carranza.</p><p>Dziedzic told <em><a href="http://chicagoist.com/2012/09/11/the_portage_theater_has_new_owner.php">Chicagoist</a></em> that when he spoke last week with the new owner, &ldquo;Carranza put forth a plan that would transform the Portage into a music venue and rip out the seats, but [it] would still be able to screen films.&rdquo;</p><p>In a statement released via Chicago EveryBlock, Carranza said, &ldquo;We are BIG fans of movie and film programming&hellip; There are no immediate formal plans for our own entertainment programming as the current tenant maintains the venue&rsquo;s event calendar. However, we will seek opportunities and will put forth ideas to further add diverse entertainment programming and live music events.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, at least in part, Carranza would eventually like the Portage to become a smaller version of the now-music-exclusive Congress (capacity 3,500), a little less than four miles south and east on Milwaukee Avenue. But there are several obstacles in his path to making that happen.</p><p>For one, the Congress is in the midst of a series of high-pressure &ldquo;Deleterious Impact/Public Nuisance&rdquo; hearings with the city that could result in the venue losing its liquor license if concerns about security, the condition of the building and noise are not abated. City officials say some progress has been made, but there still is a long way to go: Police reported 16 calls to the theater in the first half of August alone. (The next hearing takes place on Oct. 31, and an account of hearing number three on Aug. 16 can be found on <a href="http://chicago-pipeline.com/2012/08/17/dispatch-from-congress-theaters-3rd-public-nuisance-hearing-aug-16th/">Chicago Pipeline.com</a>.)</p><p>For another, converting the Portage into a general admission music venue like the Congress would require both a liquor and a public place of amusement license, and neither is likely to be granted to Carranza soon, one city official said.</p><p>Finally, though Carranza recently partnered with the digital marketing agency Doejo to redevelop the streetfront at the Congress, the venue owner has frequently and spiritedly complained about a shortage of cash to make the many improvements there that the city and community are demanding.</p><p>Putting aside the question of how he financed the Portage deal, one might naturally ask that if Carranza doesn&rsquo;t have the money to fix the theater he&rsquo;s owned for seven years in Logan Square, where will he get the money to fix the one he just bought at Six Corners?</p><p>Though he offered them as few specifics about his plans for the Portage as he gave this blogger, Carranza has been talking with Ald. Arena, and he met with a community group on Monday. Arena says he is &ldquo;cautiously optimistic.&rdquo; (He also has posted some comments on his <a href="http://ward45.org/portage-theater-sold/">ward-office Web site</a>.)</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m just happy to finally have somebody who owns the building that I can talk with and have these conversations with,&rdquo; Arena told me. &ldquo;The previous owners were on their way out for years,&rdquo; and they showed little interest in improving the building, a cornerstone of a neighborhood that has seen significant redevelopment.</p><p>(Have you been to the wonderfully old-school <a href="http://www.citynewsstand.com/">City News</a> lately? You can hardly recognize the place. It has now expanded to include a &mdash; gulp! &mdash; bona fide yuppie-friendly café!)</p><p>One thing community groups, city officials and Carranza agree on: With all due respect to its rich history, the Portage remains a key to the future of Six Corners &mdash; though what the Portage itself will become remains to be seen.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><u>Earlier reports in this blog about the Congress and Portage theaters:</u></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-07/congress-theater-partners-up%E2%80%A6-and-looks-expand-101199">July 26: Congress Theater partners up&hellip; and looks to expand</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-04/more-trouble-congress-theater-98249">April 14: More trouble at the Congress Theater</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-28/critical-congress-security-headliner-brings-his-own-97696">March 28: Critical of Congress security, headliner brings his own</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-25/congress-theater-responds-complaints-97597">March 25: Congress Theater responds to complaints</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-22/city-congress-theater-clean-your-act-97549">March 22: City to Congress Theater: Clean up your act!</a></p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 11 Sep 2012 14:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/portage-theater-what%E2%80%99s-eddie-102350 Chicago officials scrutinize public safety, other neighborhood concerns at Congress Theater http://www.wbez.org/culture/art/chicago-officials-scrutinize-public-safety-other-neighborhood-concerns-congress-theater <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/congress_flickr_ryan K.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago officials are looking into whether the Congress Theater in Logan Square is a public nuisance.</p><p>Neighbors’ complaints during a community meeting at city hall Tuesday included drunken concert-goers and the thump of loud electronic music. Police say they’ve received more than 120 calls about the Congress in the past 14 months, and reported 36 incidents ranging from theft and battery to drug possession.</p><p>Nina Centeno, who has lived five houses down the street from the Congress for the last 33 years, says she’s especially concerned for the safety of teenagers like her daughter, who is not allowed to go there without her. On New Year’s Eve, an 18-year-old girl was allegedly raped near the Congress after the venue reportedly turned her away for not having ID.</p><p>“Our youth go to this place as a safe haven,” Centeno said after the meeting. “They want to explore and hear music. You don’t go to Disneyland and get raped, I’m sorry. Our kids need to be safe.”</p><p>First Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno has been critical of the venue, but says he’ll work with owner Eddie Caranza to help him bring the venue into compliance with city regulations.</p><p>“I want them to remain open and get better,” Moreno said. “And I have every belief that [Caranza], in his heart and his mind, wants to do these things.”</p><p>The hearing was the first of three meetings between the Congress Theater, city officials and members of the public. Barbara Gressel, counsel for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, oversaw the meeting and presented a list of items she says the Congress needs to work on before the next meeting, scheduled to take place at City Hall on Tuesday, June 19. The list included keeping 911 call records, sending representatives to all CAPS and aldermanic meetings and improving parking and security.</p><p>The owner and his staff say they plan more soundproofing and other changes, and during the meeting Caranza designated one of his employees as a community liaison for future neighborhood concerns.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>At risk here is the venue’s liquor license, which could be revoked if the venue does not make changes according to the city’s specifications.</p><p><a name="showaudio"></a></p><hr><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Wednesday morning on&nbsp;</em>Eight Forty-Eight,<i>&nbsp;Robin Amer sat down with WBEZ music blogger Jim DeRogatis to talk about the Congress Theater hearing and the ongoing conflict with the venue.&nbsp;</i></span></p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1334765036-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/120418 seg c.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><br><hr></p> Tue, 17 Apr 2012 19:15:58 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/culture/art/chicago-officials-scrutinize-public-safety-other-neighborhood-concerns-congress-theater