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Age Hurting Riviera, Patio Theater, Aragon Ballroom

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 21, 2013 6:40PM

Photo credit: Michael Perry

Whenever the Congress Theater has made headlines for its distressed condition, owner Eddie Carranza has said his building is in no worse condition than similar-sized venues across the city.

Carranza may be right. DNAInfo Chicago reports on some serious building code violations at the Aragon Ballroom and Riviera Theatre in Uptown. The Riviera, which is owned by an affiliate of local promoter Jam Productions, has a litany of outstanding building code violations that rivals the Congress.

Riviera Theater Building Code Violations

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The most pressing of these violations that may cost the most money is the one at the very top of the list. The Riv was cited for having "distressed terra cotta" and ordered to remove it. A tarp still covers where that loose terra cotta is located. The city imposes a fine of $1,000 for every day the violation isn't fixed, meaning the terra cotta is costing Jam $274,000 and counting.

Then there's the Aragon Ballroom, which also has a few outstanding building code violations, including a distressed exterior wall costing the owners of that venue $4,000 per day that it isn't fixed.

Aragon Ballroom Building Code Violations

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Both are old buildings dating back to the Silent Film era, but the violations have the potential to be a black eye to the Emanuel administration. The Riviera and Aragon, along with the Uptown Theatre, are to serve as the foundation for an "Uptown Music District," another proposal by Emanuel that holds little heft other than to expand our chests in civic pride. As WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis noted, the Herculean task of restoring the Uptown could cost $70-$80 million, which Jam Productions (the theater's owner) doesn't have.

The problems with classic theaters isn't relegated to Uptown. The Patio Theater, which has been trying to make a go of programming new and classic movies, will close during the summer because owner Demetri Kouvalis can't afford to repair the theater's air conditioning unit.

Kouvalis told DNAInfo the estimate to fix the AC is between $40,000 to $50,000, which he believed he had covered by a Small Business Improvement grant from the area's tax increment financing district. Instead, the Patio's proposal was 13th of 15 proposals. Kouvalis, who previously announced he was awarded the grant, blamed the miscommunication on a city official.

Kouvalis could take the crowd fund route to finance the money necessary for repairing the AC, but he held a successful Kickstarter campaign last year to upgrade the theater's projection system so that it was capable of digital projection and asking fans of the Patio to help out again would seem like bad form.

News of the Patio's summer vacation comes at an inopportune time for Kouvalis, as summer is traditionally the theater's peak earnings season. He did say he'll use the time to develop a new business plan and re-open in the fall.