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My partner and I worked very hard to help both Dennis Wolkowicz and his management team, along with Alderman John Arena (45th)in Chicago as they attempted to save the management team and Portage Theater.
Having said that, please know that I do not speak for either the Alderman, Mr Wolkowicz, or Mr Carranza, but as someone who loves motion pictures and is saddened by the fact that this situation was allowed to spiral out of control.
As you read this, please keep in mind that I am fully in favor of getting the Portage re-opened, but that re-opening must be done with a management team who understands Cinema; is willing to respect the Portage Theater’s rich history; is willing to respect the neighborhood; and is willing, and capable, of making a proper investment of time, work, and commitment.
The Portage now sits there: silent and shuttered. The projectors, sound system and Organ have been removed. The Silent Film Society has moved to the Des Plaines, and the building, which has been granted landmarked status, [http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130508/portage-park/portage-theater-granted-landmark-status] now sits shuttered – without the ability to provide entertainment
Here is the statement from Ald. John Arena (45th) regarding the unnecessary closing of the Portage Theatre in Chicago:
“I was as shocked as you to learn late Friday that Erineo Carranza, owner of the Portage Theater, decided to abruptly close. There was nothing I did that forced Mr. Carranza to close the venue.
It was solely his choice. He made that choice hours after the city’s liquor commissioner revoked his license at the Congress Theater. Later that same day, his attorney had assured me that the venue would remain open.
By way of background, Mr. Carranza purchased the company that managed the theater on May 14, and my understanding from conversations with city officials was that he had 30 days from that date to apply for a liquor license or transfer his ownership to another operator, as anyone who’s liquor license is revoked cannot obtain another.
It was my understanding from Mr. Carranza’s attorney that Mr. Carranza was engaged in discussions to sell the management company. My office received a letter May 16 from Mr. Carranza’s attorney acknowledging that reality and setting forth that plan to move forward.
On May 16, I had a meeting scheduled with Mr. Carranza and Dennis Wolkowicz (part of the previous management team) to discuss their future plans. Only Mr. Wolkowicz attended, however. I’m not sure why Mr. Carranza decided not to show up.
At that meeting, it was reiterated to me that Mr. Wolkowicz would continue managing the venue in the interim period, and a transaction was in the works that would transfer the management company to individuals able to responsibly manage the venue.
I was comfortable with this; Mr. Wolkowicz has managed the day-to-day operation of the theater since it reopened, and he has poured his heart and soul into the building. He is the reason that theater has been a community asset for the last eight years.
I also indicated that I looked forward to meeting the potential partners and expressed my support for a mixture of film programming and live entertainment at the venue, as long as it creates no deleterious impact in our community and is run by a responsible operator.
On Friday, I was informed by Mr. Carranza’s attorney that they intended to honor their contracts for the events booked at the theater for the foreseeable future as they proceeded through the sale of the management company. I expressed no objection.
Hours later, Mr. Carranza decided to shut the theater’s doors and change the locks.
It is important for me to stress three things:
First, Mr. Carranza never filed any paperwork with my office or the city applying for a transfer of the license. Contrary to what Mr. Carranza and his representatives have said in the media, there was literally nothing for me to formally object to.
Now, it is no secret that I have deep concerns stemming from Mr. Carranza’s management of another venue, the Congress Theater. I do not want that style of management coming to Portage Park. However, I never rejected any bona fide application for a transfer, and the city did not order Mr. Carranza to close the Portage Theater.
I have said that I will not support any application by Mr. Carranza until he can prove that he can be a responsible liquor license holder and venue operator. That stance continues in light of Mr. Carranza’s recent erratic behavior.
Second, even if I was supportive, Mr. Carranza is now ineligible for a liquor license. Section 4-60-030(h) of the Chicago Municipal Code states that no person may obtain a liquor license when they have had another liquor license revoked.
Mr. Carranza lost his liquor license at the Congress Theater Friday, pending appeals. The license was revoked because the Chicago Liquor Commissioner found that, while managing the Congress, he allowed drug use in the venue at least five times and failed to call police promptly when a near riot broke out between rival gang factions during a concert. (Incidentally, the fight was witnessed by an undercover Chicago Police vice officer who was investigating allegations that theater security confiscated drugs off patrons at the door and resold the drugs in the venue.)
At this point, the fact that Mr. Carranza cannot obtain a liquor license has nothing to do with me. It has to do with his inability to adhere to the Chicago Liquor Control Ordinance.
Third, the failure to obtain a liquor license is no reason to close the venue entirely with no notice. This weekend, a monster film festival was scheduled for Saturday, and a film presented by the Northwest Chicago Film Society was planned for Monday. These were not rock concerts where a patron would expect to be able to get a beer.
The Portage Theater is not a bar; it is a theater. Alcohol is incidental to the other activity happening at the venue.
In short, it was Mr. Carranza’s decision to close the venue when he did and how he did. He didn’t have to. Nothing forced him to. He made that choice to breach his existing contracts and shut his doors.
I am disappointed and saddened that Mr. Carranza has decided to use a fog of misdirection to avoid confronting the truth; he alone is the cause of his problems.
My door has always been open to Mr. Carranza, or any bona fide potential operator of the theater. That will continue. I will work with whomever has the commitment, character, and capital to successfully and responsibly operate that venue.
In the mean time, I want you to know that my staff and I continue to work to revitalize Six Corners, despite Mr. Carranza. We continue to guide multiple restaurants and attractions through the city’s permitting process, and you should see the results in the months to come."