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Congress Theater Closed Until October Unless New Operator Steps In

By Victoria Johnson | July 25, 2013 11:26am | Updated on July 25, 2013 2:50pm
 The Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., has been battling the city on various fronts.
The Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., has been battling the city on various fronts.
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DNAInfo/Victoria Johnson

LOGAN SQUARE — The Congress Theater will remain closed until October unless someone else takes over operations, the theater's lawyer agreed at a hearing Thursday.

Last week, a development firm hired by theater owner Eddie Carranza announced it was looking for operators to take over the theaters and storefront spaces at both the Congress Theater and Portage Theater in Portage Park.

A week before that, at the Congress Theater's last hearing regarding building violations on July 11, attorney Demetris Kare said he anticipated having a new operator in two days. But two weeks later, that has not happened.

"There's just ongoing negotiations," he said. "Regrettably, it's taken longer than anticipated."

The risks associated with a run-down theater and a slew of building violations were giving potential renters pause, he said.

"What's taking so long is obviously the liability," he said.

Meanwhile, a scheduled hearing last week to appeal the revocation of the Congress Theater's liquor license was postponed until September, meaning the theater would be allowed to serve liquor if it reopens before then.

Liquor sales are allowed to continue during the appeals process.

Kare said if a lease agreement was reached before October, he would file a special motion with the court to get the theater reopened.

In a text message, Carranza said lease negotiations were going "very well," though he did not elaborate.

Joe Houlihan, an associate at Paine/Wetzel and Associates, said nothing's been signed yet, but that there is "a lot of interest" in leasing space at both the Congress and Portage theaters.

"We don't have any official announcements yet, but I can say that we have a lot of interest and a lot of" letters of intent, he said.

Among those interested are restaurants, coffee shops, a furniture showroom and a vintage clothing store, Houlihan said.

As for the theater spaces themselves, Houlihan said deals were getting closer to being finalized.

"It's difficult to get an exact date, but I've been told it'll be within a matter of weeks," he said. "It's just a lot of quibbling over the last little bits of the agreement."