LOGAN SQUARE — The Congress Theater has beefed up security in response to disciplinary action from the city, and only two neighbors had anything bad to say at their last community meeting.
That was a far cry from the dozens that had voiced their displeasure in previous months.
The Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., was put into the Public Nuisance/Deleterious Impact process in April at the urging of Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) to address complaints of loud music, bottles, trash, intoxicated patrons, underage drinking and other "crime and safety issues," according to city records.
The public nuisance ordinance provides a platform for community members to voice their complaints to the city Department of Business & Consumer Affairs, and can even lead to a business losing its liquor or business license if conditions don't improve.
Every two months since April, Congress owner Eddie Carranza and Congress management have appeared before an assistant business and consumer affairs commissioner for the city and faced testimony from nearby residents, police and Moreno. They also had to prove they were working to solve past problems.
"From meeting to meeting, the Congress vastly improved," maintained the lawyer for the Congress, Thomas Raines. "The Congress has done everything [ city assistant commissioner Barb Gressel] asked."
According to meeting records, the Congress added more visible security guards and cameras outside the property.
At the last meeting, held Oct. 31, only two residents showed up with minor complaints, and Gressel commended Carranza and his staff. Gressel scheduled the next meeting for May 7, 2013, as something of a "checkup" to make sure improvements stay on course.
Joe Kopera has lived just south of the Congress Theater, in the 2100 block of North Bingham Street, for 51 years. He said he's never had a problem with the Congress Theater and didn't even think it needed to go through the public nuisance process.
"It's never been a problem for me," he said. "In fact at the first hearing I was one of the first to speak out for them."
Though he knows many of his neighbors were bothered by the Congress, he never was, he said.
"I didn't think they should have been taken in [to the meetings] in the first place," he said.
Still, the venue's attorney thought the meetings helped.
"I thought the process was great," Raines said. "It really helped. My client wasn't happy about it initially, but it really helped."
Raines called the Congress "a much better venue right now," adding, "It's actually better for business."