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Portage Theater to be Run by Former Congress Theater Production Manager

 Shows are scheduled to take place at the Portage Theater through July, according to its website.
Shows are scheduled to take place at the Portage Theater through July, according to its website.
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Facebook/Portage Theater

PORTAGE PARK — The former production manager of the Congress Theater will operate the Portage Theater, which will reopen in June after being closed for a year — with a liquor license.

Charlie Burns, who helped run the Logan Square theater before it was shuttered by city officials, leased the Portage Theater, in the heart of the Six Corners Shopping District, from owner Eddie Carranza, city officials said Wednesday.

Carranza, whose ownership of the 94-year-old former Six Corners movie palace has been steeped in controversy, will have no role in the day-to-day operations of the city, the theater's new management team said on Facebook.

Burns could not be reached for comment Wednesday and Carranza did not return several calls and messages seeking comment.

Ald. John Arena (45th) said he was cautiously optimistic the reopening of the theater at 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. could build on what he called the ongoing "resurgence" of Six Corners, once the city's premier shopping district outside of the Loop.

"We're working to make sure that Mr. Burns is aware of the expectations of the community, both in the type of programming that they will support and the type of behavior they expect from him and his patrons," Arena said in a statement.

Although the theater's liquor license and public place of amusement licenses expired, the commissioner of the Department of Businesses Affairs and Consumer Protection allowed Portage Theater Management Inc., a company owned by Carranza, to renew them, Arena said.

That company was then sold to Burns' company, Finest Management LLC, officials said.

The theater can reopen immediately and begin serving alcohol, said Mika Stambaugh, a spokeswoman for the business affairs department.

Carranza closed the Portage Theater a year ago after Arena said he would not allow Carranza to take over the liquor and public place of amusement licenses at the Six Corners theater based on Carranza's pockmarked track record at the Congress Theater.

In January, Carranza announced he had sold the Congress Theater — which has also been dark for a year — to Michael Moyer, a developer responsible for the Cadillac Theater downtown.

That sale has been stymied by lawsuits filed against Carranza and his companies.

In May 2013, Carranza lost his liquor license at the Congress, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave., after city officials determined the theater "created a nuisance" because of five separate illegal incidents involving drugs from September 2011 to April 2012.

Several weeks later, city officials closed down the Congress because of building violations.

Levi Moore, the president of the Six Corners Business Association, said he was surprised by the news that the Portage Theater would reopen.

"It is good for Six Corners, and good for that stretch of Milwaukee Avenue," said Moore, who is the executive director of the National Veterans Art Museum at 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., which is across the street from the theater.

However, the Portage Park community does not want the issues that surrounded the Congress Theater to arise near Six Corners.

"People in the area will be watching," Moore said.

More than a half-dozen new businesses are slated to open at Six Corners in the next several months, including a new restaurant from the owner of The Portage Restaurant, Community.

"A properly managed Portage Theater has the potential to propel that resurgence even further," Arena said.

Until the theater's website was updated Wednesday to show a full list of events through July, Arena was unaware plans were in the works to reopen the theater that had been closed since May 24, 2013, said Owen Brugh, the alderman's chief of staff.

The theater plans to reopen June 14 as part of the Six Corners BBQ Fest June 14-15, according to its website.

The lineup for June and July includes comedy shows, silent films presented by Jay Warren and classic rock tribute bands, with ticket prices ranging from $10 to $15.

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