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Patio Theater Applies for Liquor License, But Alderman Says He'll Block It

 The operators of the Patio Theater want to serve booze during shows
The operators of the Patio Theater want to serve booze during shows
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PORTAGE PARK — The operators of the Patio Theater want city officials to allow them to serve alcohol during shows — but Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) said Monday he would block the bid for a liquor license.

Sposato said the team operating the theater — led by Charlie Burns — had "hinted" that they wanted Sposato to lift a ban on the sale of alcohol at the theater and the surrounding area imposed by former Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) before he left office last year.

"But they never asked officially," Sposato said, promising to investigate after learning about the liquor license application from DNAinfo Chicago. “I’m baffled and surprised. This is not the way to do this.”

Portage Theater owner Eddie Carranza paid $2.5 million in the fall to take control of the former movie palace, records show. The same team that manages the Portage Theater at the heart of the Six Corners Shopping District now operates the Patio Theater in the Irving Austin Business District.

Carranza on Monday referred questions from DNAinfo Chicago to Burns.

Burns said he had planned on speaking with the alderman about the application, which was filed last week, to allow patrons of the 88-year-old theater at 6008 W. Irving Park Road to drink alcohol during events.

"The ability to sell adult beverages makes the theater and many of the events economically viable," Burns said. "In other words, the extra income allows us to seek better talent, movies and so forth. This, in turn, will bring more people to the theater and neighborhood. Everybody wins."

The theater intends to show a "diverse range of movies" as well as comedy shows, lectures, concerts and performance art shows. Operators also plan to rent the theater for corporate events, Burns said.

"I look forward to sharing ideas with the alderman, surrounding community, local businesses and those that have an interest in keeping Chicago’s remaining historic theaters open," Burns said.

Many other similar venues in Chicago — including the Portage Theater and Thalia Hall in Pilsen — have liquor licenses.

In most cases, the city's liquor commission follows the recommendation of the ward’s alderman when deciding to issue a liquor license.

In December, when Carranza's purchase of the theater became public, Sposato said he was "suspicious" when Burns and others failed to return several calls from him after he met with them.

"They had some good ideas, but I'm not prepared to allow them to serve alcohol there," Sposato said, adding he remains concerned by Carranza's record.

Carranza and Burns have clashed repeatedly with Ald. John Arena (45th), who called the Portage Theater "a recipe for disaster" in November.

Carranza also had a troubled record at the Congress Theater in Logan Square, which city officials determined created a nuisance because of five separate illegal incidents involving drugs from September 2011 to April 2012.

City officials yanked Carranza's liquor license at the Congress, sparking a long-running dispute between the theater owner and Arena that resulted in the closure of the Portage Theater from May 2013 to June 2014.

The only event to take place under the Patio Theater's new management was a free showing of "A Christmas Story" and free pictures with Santa Claus as part of the Irving Austin Business District Holiday Walk.

The next event at the theater is scheduled for April.

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