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Congress Theater Gets Another Reprieve

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 23, 2013 9:00PM

Congress Theater owner Eddie Carranza has nine lives, a genie who granted him three wishes, a lucky rabbit's foot, a backyard full of four-leaf clovers and a horseshoe planted firmly up his ass. That's what we're led to believe after a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled the beleaguered Logan Square venue will remain open, but at a reduced capacity, while Carranza works to address a list of building code violations that threatened to shut down the theater last week.

Judge James McGing ruled the Congress may resume ticket sales for events at the venue, but must limit occupancy to 3,000 people while Carranza works to address violations in the Congress' balcony seating, including installing new lighting and a backup generator.

Carranza earned the reprieve after passing a Monday inspection where some of the most damning violations — including inspecting the theater's fire curtain and getting the Congress' ventilation system up and running — were addressed. City attorney Judy Frydland told DNAInfo Chicago the city has "no basis for closure" with those and other major issues addressed.

The Sun-Times added the Congress will have two fire guards and one stage fire guard at all shows to ensure safety and coordinate evacuation in the event of an emergency.

WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis spoke with unnamed owners of other local venues, who expressed frustration regarding Carranza's continued near-misses.

"I can't understand how [Carranza] has stayed open as long as he has, or why the city lets him continue," said the owner of a venue a quarter of the size of the Congress. "I've been hassled for much, much less, and you can't even complain, because it's about public safety."

Another promoter questioned why the city was "raising a red flag so late in the game. We all know Eddie is negligent, but what about the city?"

Added yet another live music insider: "That list of infractions at the Congress scares the s--t out of me."

Frydland said the city will continue to hound Carranza until all the violations are addressed and another court date has been set for May 9, preceded by another inspection. The venue's capacity will remain capped until McGing says otherwise.