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Congress Theater Owners May Have An Interest In Buying Portage Theater

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 24, 2012 6:00PM

Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

There was a collective sigh of relief Friday when the news broke that Chicago Tabernacle ended its attempts to buy the Portage Theater and pulled its zoning permit request to renovate the Six Corners landmark into a church. While Portage Theater management humbly celebrated the victory Friday at the start of this year’s Silent Summer Film Festival, attempts to sell the theater aren’t over.

Chicagoist followed up on some rumblings on Everyblock Chicago and the Portage Theater’s Facebook page and learned there are several bids for the theater. The most notable—and for some the most disturbing—bid comes from the ownership group behind the Congress Theater. Chicagoist spoke with Portage Theater general manager Dennis Wolkowicz and Owen Brugh, chief of staff for Ald. John Arena (45th). Wolkowicz confirmed the Congress bid is one of many the building’s owners are entertaining. Brugh would only state for the record that Arena’s office is aware of several offers for the Portage.

Portage Theater supporters (rightly) fear the Congress Theater’s problems with loud concerts, crowd control, underage drinking and security would follow to the Far Northwest side. The rumblings on Everyblock claim Congress management would tear out seats in order to fill more people in the space. If that’s true, then Chicago Tabernacle’s pulled bid suddenly looks more enticing. The Portage’s Dennis Wolkowicz told Chicagoist his backers are working to match the bid Chicago Tabernacle offered for the building, approximately $2.5 million. “Hopefully we can round up the financing and buy the theater,” Wolkowicz said. In the meantime, Wolkowicz is dealing with other theater-related matters. Last week’s thunderstorms damaged the Portage’s pipe organ, which was operating at 60 percent capacity for the Sherlock Holmes screening last Friday.

Chicagoist reached out to Congress Theater owner Eddie Carranza for this story. We were unable to leave a voice mail and an email sent to Carranza was not returned as of post time.