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City revokes Congress Theater’s liquor license; owner vows to appeal

The Congress Theater | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times files

The Congress Theater | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times files

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Updated: June 26, 2013 6:13AM

The embattled Congress Theater has lost its liquor and business licenses but can continue business as usual while it appeals, authorities said Friday.

A city hearing officer found the theater violated city codes “because within 12 consecutive months 5 separate incidents occurred on the licensed premises while the establishment was open for business involving acts that violated a state law regulating narcotics or controlled substances,” according to the ruling.

In four disciplinary hearings, the city detailed alleged drug-related incidents and other alleged violations at the popular music venue at 2135 N. Milwaukee in Logan Square. They include allegations staffers didn’t call 911 to report a large fight during a Chief Keef rap concert in April 2012 and didn’t cooperate with police when seven underage concertgoers were let into a concert.

Theater owner Eddie Carranza indicated Friday he would appeal the city’s decision but added in a text message, “I don’t have the resources and money the city has to keep going on with court hearings.”

“We built a very strong music brand and revived a forgotten theater building. There will be plenty of buyers and operators interested in [taking] over our business,” Carranza wrote.

Carranza suggested he was being forced to sell. “The liquor commissioner sent a clear message he has some personal issue with me operating my theater,” he wrote.

Carranza can appeal to the License Appeal Commission. If he loses there, he can continue his court battle in Cook County Circuit Court.

During the appeals, the theater can remain open for business.

If the revocations stand, the Congress will lose all of its business licenses, including the public place of amusement license, which is required for venues providing any kind of public entertainment.

Carranza’s attorney, Harlan Powell, argued during the city hearing that there was a heavy police presence at the Chief Keef concert, both undercover officers planted inside, and patrol officers outside. Yet no police officer called to report the fight.

Powell also argued five drug-related incidents were properly reported to police by staff, and that the theater shouldn’t be disciplined for those events.

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