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Judge rules the shows can go on, for now, at Congress Theater

The Congress Theater | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times files

The Congress Theater | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times files

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Updated: May 25, 2013 6:28AM

The Congress Theater can once again sell tickets to upcoming shows, but must keep the crowd to a maximum 3,000 concertgoers, a Cook County judge ruled on Tuesday.

Last week, the historic Logan Square theater was hit with a court order to suspend ticket sales pending repairs and inspection of the facility.

The theater’s ventilation system and fire curtain — the latter preventing a fire from spreading — were the biggest concerns, but passed city inpection prior to Tuesday’s hearing, according to city attorney Judy Frydland.

A court order formalizes an agreement made between Congress owners and city attorneys which requires the theater at 2135 N. Milwaukee to not allow occupancy to exceed more than 3,000, until the court orders otherwise. Concertgoers have to stay on the first floor of the theater because the second floor remains closed as staff works to fix a backup generator. The second floor bathroom is still safe to use, however,

The theater also agreed to have two fire guards and one stage fire guard at all shows to ensure safety and to guide concertgoers in case of an emergency, according to the order.

Both sides will meet once again in court on May 9, just after the next scheduled inspection.

But the majority of the most urgent violations detailed in an emergency motion filed last week have been completed, according to Frydland.

“I know the main issues were the fire extinguishers, the CO2 detectors, the testing of the fire curtain, the testing of the ventilation system, the removal of extra [electrical] cords, the upgrading of the electrical system,” Frydland said. “So I think the majority of the most serious violations are complied.”

Asked whether the Congress face imminent closure, Frydland said: “With those violations complied, we don’t have a basis. You can’t just move to close somebody without a basis. . . .I just don’t believe that we have a basis for closure at this time.”

Congress owner Erineo “Eddie” Carranza faces yet another city hearing next week before the Chicago Liquor Commission. The disciplinary hearing is 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 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.

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