Congress Theater to Remain Open This Weekend, But More Inspections to Come
CHICAGO — Despite the city's attempt to shutter it immediately, the Congress Theater will remain open for now with limited capacity, a Cook County judge ordered Thursday.
Judge James McGing, however, ordered that no more tickets to events be sold. Another court hearing will be held after a Monday inspection.
In a prior court order, the second and third floor balconies at the theater were closed, except for the second floor bathroom. By the judge's order Thursday, capacity will be additionally reduced on the first floor, from 4,500 to 3,000.
Two licensed fire guards will also be present for this weekend's shows to help move crowds along and keep safety a top priority, said Judy Frydland, representing the city.
Last Friday, the city listed 26 "dangerous and hazardous" building code violations in a motion calling for the venue's immediate closure. Most of those issues have been resolved, Frydland said Thursday.
Among the violations were obstructions of emergency exits, exposed wires, defective lighting, missing fire extinguishers and a broken ventilation system, WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis first reported Thursday.
"As time has gone by, their response has improved. I think they've realized how serious this is," Frydland said about Congress owner Eddie Carranza.
"The city and us are making great progress," Carranza said Wednesday night. "I'm being pushed to do it, and I'm gladly doing it, and I'm doing it as fast as I can."
The Congress now has fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors, electrical issues have been fixed, and the fire curtain comes down, Frydland said. Obstructed exits will be taken care of by the reduced capacity.
"The biggest issue is the fire curtain with ventilation," she said.
The ventilation cannot be tested until there is good weather, said Demetrius Kare, representing the theater.
Frydland said city inspectors will look at the theater Monday, but it is unknown whether an outside inspector for the ventilation system will be able to.
Building code violation issues are not Carranza's only problems.
He faced his second disciplinary hearing before the Liquor Control Commission in late March, which could decide to revoke his license. Several weeks earlier, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said he believed the theater was making steps in the right direction.
The theater was also threatened with foreclosure in a lawsuit in November alleging he defaulted on his loans, but Carranza said he has never missed a payment.