Complaints detailed at city hearing for Congress Theater
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter email@example.com March 26, 2013 5:12PM
The Congress Theater | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times files
Updated: April 28, 2013 6:43AM
The controversial owner of Logan Square’s Congress Theater is just a month away from a decision that could strip his concert venue of a liquor license.
The Chicago Liquor Control Commission on Tuesday continued its disciplinary hearing targeting five drug-related incidents at the popular venue, as well as charges alleging staffers didn’t call 911 to report a large fight during a Chief Keef concert, and didn’t cooperate with police when seven underage concertgoers were let into a concert.
If the city can prove owner Erineo “Eddie” Carranza is liable for the charges, the penalty could be as severe as the revocation of his city licenses, including the venue’s liquor license. It could also result in fines or suspension of the theater’s business license.
The city called three witnesses to the stand during the commission’s first hearing in January, including an undercover Chicago Police officer, a 911 operator and a man who alleged he’d been beaten outside the theater by venue security.
On Tuesday, the city called its last witness, Chicago Police Sgt. Joseph Giambrone, who detailed a meeting with theater employees and police in which security issues were discussed last year.
“There was an issue of them [security] not calling police and disposing of narcotics in the past,” Giambrone said. Instead of reporting the discovery of illegal drugs to police, security agents were tossing them or keeping them, city officials allege.
The sergeant also testified that theater staff is required to call 911 on a landline to report criminal activity, in order for the city to have a record of the incident.
But testimony in January from the 911 operator showed no security called police to report a fight during a Chief Keef concert on April 13.
“It was a skirmish of up to 20 people at one point,” Giambrone said. “People were being pulled down the ground, grabbing each other’s hair, in several different places.”
Carranza’s current lawyer, Harlan Powell, is the third to take over his case. Powell argued there was a heavy police presence at the Chief Keef concert, both undercover officers planted inside, and patrol officers outside. Yet, no police officers called to report the fight.
Powell also argued the five drug-related incidents were reported to police by staff, and that the theater shouldn’t be disciplined for those events because they were properly reported.
Deputy Hearings Commissioner Robert Nolan continued the hearing to April 30, when Powell plans to call a city Business Affairs and Consumer Protection employee to the stand to describe a 911 policy created after the city brought the problems to the management’s attention. City assistant corporation counsel Maggie Sheils argued the woman’s testimony won’t be relevant because talks between police, city and theater staff regarding the policy happened months after the disputed events.
Powell had planned to call another witness, a member of an outside security firm, but has been unable to get him to cooperate.
It’s just the latest bump in the road for Carranza, who’s also involved in deleterious impact and public nuisance hearings with the city that could also result in the revocation of licenses.