PORTAGE PARK — Residents of the 28 apartments above and adjacent to the Portage Theater went without hot water or gas for three days after owner Eddie Carranza failed to pay the historic building's gas bill.
Carranza said Monday he couldn't pay the bill because the theater in the heart of the Six Corners Shopping District hasn't hosted a show since May. And he blamed the theater's previous owners for sticking him with a past-due bill of nearly $25,000.
On Monday morning, Carranza insisted he would pay the entire bill Monday, restoring service to the 28 apartments at 4042-60 N. Milwaukee Ave. and 4905-15 W. Cuyler Ave., Carranza said.
"I'm going to pay the $20,000 bill, but it's no big f------ deal," said Carranza, who bought the building a year ago. "I had financial issues. I had no cash flow because there were no shows."
By 1 p.m., Carranza said he had paid the bill. But as of 2 p.m., Jennifer Block, a spokeswoman for Peoples Gas, said Carranza's payment had not been received.
Timothy Downs, who has lived in one of the apartments on Cuyler Avenue for three months, said being without gas for three days has been "horrible" for him and his 3-year-old son Malachi.
"We've been taking cold showers and we can't cook anything," Downs said Monday morning. "We can't do anything."
Downs said his calls for help went unreturned, with a receptionist telling him the manager was out of town and would not be back for six weeks.
"It has been horrible," Downs said, adding that he has also asked the manager to do something about the bedbugs in his apartment and a broken window in his back door. "Everyone has been complaining."
Block confirmed the gas was shut off for nonpayment.
The neon orange shut-off notice posted on the building's residential doors is dated Sept. 11.
Because the Portage Theater's gas bill was on a payment plan, one missed payment meant an immediate shut-off notice, Carranza said.
"I don't know why it is such a big deal," Carranza said. "The bigger deal is how I'm improving that sh---y neighborhood."
A recently signed deal with a "high-end developer" to remake the theater, the nearby storefronts and the apartments has put an end to his financial issues, Carranza said. However, the theater owner would not identify the partner or discuss details of his plans.
"We've got some really cool stuff in the works," Carranza said. "We are going to develop it the right way."
Carranza closed the Portage May 24 after Ald. John Arena (45th) said he would not allow Carranza to take over the liquor and public place of amusement licenses at the theater near Six Corners based on the theater operator's pockmarked track record at the Congress.
On the same day the Portage went dark, city officials revoked Carranza's liquor license at the Congress Theater in Logan Square, finding it "created a nuisance" due to five separate illegal incidents involving narcotics or controlled substances during an eight-month period from September 2011 to April 2012.
Although the theater was allowed to continue selling booze while Carranza appealed the revocation, the Logan Square theater was shut down June 11 as Carranza worked to correct multiple building code and safety violations.