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Patio Theater To Be Allowed To Serve Booze During Shows, Ald. Sposato Says

By Heather Cherone | August 31, 2016 9:01pm | Updated on September 1, 2016 7:36am
 Patio Theater
Patio Theater
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

PORTAGE PARK — The Patio Theater will be allowed to serve booze during shows and other events, Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) said late Wednesday.

Sposato's announcement came after the operators of the theater agreed to a host of restrictions on how the theater can serve beer, wine and spirits, including a ban on booze sales after 11:30 p.m. during the week and 12:30 a.m. on weekends. Liquor sales for all live performances must end at 11:30 p.m., according to the agreement.

That plan, approved by Liquor Commissioner Gregory Steadman Monday, was crafted by several community groups and signed off on by Jefferson Park (16th) Police District Cmdr. Bill Looney, Sposato said.

The plan will "create the best structure for a successful partnership between the Patio Theater and the community" and ensure "that the next generation of 38th Ward residents will be able to enjoy this great old theater," Sposato said.

A typical liquor license allows booze to be sold until 2 a.m.

While opponents said they feared the nearly 90-year-old former movie palace at 6008 W. Irving Park Road would be transformed into a "nightclub" with a liquor license, supporters said they wanted the theater on Portage Park's western edge in the Irving Austin Business District to thrive, and the ability to serve beer, wine and liquor would allow the venue to make ends meet.

Sposato initially said he would block the Patio's application for a liquor license and stopped the effort from moving forward until operator Charlie Burns agreed to additional restrictions.

Burns said being allowed to serve liquor would allow the theater to keep the lights on in the former movie palace.

"The alderman is tough, but fair," Burns said.

Under the management of Dennis Wolkowicz, the theater will host a comedy series along with film festivals as well as classic and independent movie screenings, Burns said.

"We have very diverse plans in motion for our programming," Burns said, adding that the theater plans to host free screenings for its neighbors.

While he manages the theater, the property is owned by Eddie Carranza. Many opponents of the liquor license said Carranza's record of violations at the Congress Theater in Logan Square and problems at the Portage Theater made them wary of his plans for the Patio Theater, which he bought last fall for $2.5 million.

Carranza has said he is not involved in the operation of the theater.

At a community meeting in March, Burns said the Patio Theater would become a "small Chicago Theater" with a mix of programming including films, comedy shows, lectures family-friendly events and "sit-down" concerts. As many as three shows a week could take place, Burns said.

Among the restrictions now included in the Patio Theater's liquor license is a ban on serving shots or straight alcohol not mixed with water, ice or another liquid, according to the agreement.

In addition, the operators of the theater must install a video surveillance system that covers "critical areas" of both the interior and exterior of the building. The recordings must be provided by the theater to the police on demand, according to the agreement.

Theater employees must also routinely patrol the theater's perimeter to prevent loitering, noise, littering and criminal activity, according to the agreement.

The theater must also arrange with nearby businesses to provide enough parking near the theater to allow 15 percent of patrons at each show to park their cars. The alderman can also order the theater's operators to add additional spots, according to the agreement.

Gibbons Funeral Home, 5917 W. Irving Pak Road, will provide extra parking for the theater, Burns said.

Before booking any performers at the theater, the operators are required to provide Sposato's office with research into their Internet and social media presence in an effort to prohibit "unacceptable" performers, according to the agreement.

Many of the provisions in the agreement seem crafted with complaints made by Ald. John Arena, whose 45th Ward includes the Portage Theater, which is also managed by Burns and has a liquor license.

At the Patio, operators are prohibited from removing any seating from the theater, or changing its configuration by adding additional concession stands or selling liquor outside the lobby.

Arena objected to similar changes made at the Portage Theater, which was sold by Carranza in March.

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

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