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Congress Theater Loses Liquor License

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 24, 2013 9:50PM

The Chicago Liquor Control Commission revoked the Congress Theater's liquor license this afternoon, the latest blow to the embattled Logan Square venue and its owner, Erineo "Eddie" Carranza.

The Commission's ruling was based on three previous hearings where five separate incidents in a 12-month period were cited as evidence the Congress was a public nuisance:

- The Congress failed to promptly report the fight to police at the Chief Keef concert last April. The venue did not call 911, as is required by law, but police presence already was heavy in the area during the show, in part because of the undercover investigation, and in part because of the notoriety of Chicago gangsta rapper Chief Keef, who was jailed on Tuesday for violating his probation.
- Venue staffers failed to cooperate with police officers and truthfully answer questions after the officers found seven patrons under age 17 who were illegally admitted to a show by the British dubstep DJ Rusko on May 6.
- Five incidents that “violated a state law regulating narcotics or controlled substances” at the venue between September 3, 2011, and April 15, 2012.
- And that security “caused bodily harm” to concertgoer Marco Garcia and committed theft—seizing and keeping his cell phone—after a concert by trance producer and DJ Armin van Buuren on May 26, 2012.

Hearings Commissioner Robert Nolan's ruling made it clear he believed police testimony in the previous hearings. The ruling doesn't mean, however, that the Congress has to stop selling alcohol immediately. WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis notes they can still stay open and sell alcohol during while the verdict is appealed. The next step is to the city's License Appeal Commission, circuit court, appellate court and the Illinois Supreme Court, if Carranza is crazy enough (or committed) to see the process through.

Carranza sent a text to DNAInfo Chicago that further put the future of the Congress in doubt.

"We built a very strong music brand & revived a forgotten theater building. There will be plenty of buyers and operators interested in taken (sic) over our business."

The liquor license for Carranza's other theater, the Portage Theater in Portage Park, is held by the theater's former manager Dennis Wolkowicz. Carranza announced last month he would handle the operations for the Portage and retained Wolkowicz, partly because no one would grant Carranza a liquor license with all his troubles at the Congress. Carranza has also made frequent appearances in housing court to update a judge on his progress clearing up a litany of building code violations.