City files motion to halt shows at Congress, but improvements made & theater remains open for business

The following is a copy of the motion which the city recently filed to obtain a preliminary injunction to stop the operation of the Congress Theater unless it immediately comes into full compliance with city building and safety code requirements. On April 18, a judge barred the Congress from selling additional tickets to shows “until further order of the court” and to limit occupancy to 3,000 (down from around 3,900) and to post two licensed fire guards at all shows. 
Another hearing was held on April 23, and reportedly fire safety improvements were made. A spokeswoman for the Congress said that it is once again “business as usual” at the theater and that tickets are available for upcoming shows. In a separate matter, the city also is seeking to revoke the liquor license at the Congress. Eddie Carranza, the owner of the Congress, also owns the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. Carranza recently announced that he will be co-managing the Portage. If Carranza were to have his liquor license at the Congress revoked, he cold not be issued a new liquor license under his name at the Portage.  Currently, the liquor license at the Portage is under an entity that Carranza does not own. An aide to Alderman John Arena (45th) said that Arena is keeping a close eye over what is going on at the Congress and at the Portage in an effort to make sure that the problems at the Congress do not repeat themselves at the Portage. As of about 2 weeks week ago, no application had been filed to have the Portage’s liquor license to Carranza, according to Arena’s staff.



     a municipal corporation,




     No.      12M1400213

     Re:      2117-2139 N. Milwaukee;  
                 2119-2137 N. Rockwell

     PIN:    13-36-221-017-0000; 
                 13-36- 221-031-0000; 





Plaintiff, City of Chicago, by its Attorney, Stephen R. Patton, Corporation Counsel, moves this Honorable Court to advance the court call date of May 9, 2013 to April 18, 2013 for the above-cited case and enter a preliminary injunction to enjoin the use and occupancy of a commercial space, specifically the Congress Theater, located at 2117-2139 North Milwaukee Avenue. In support, the City states as follows:

  1. On August 8, 2012, the City of Chicago filed a complaint against the subject property located at 2117-2139 N. Milwaukee for building code violations.
  2. On January 31, 2013, an agreed order for preliminary injunction not to rent, use, lease, or occupy the entire Congress theater was entered. (See Exhibit A, January 31, 2013 Court Order.)
  3. On February 7, 2013, an agreed order to lift the preliminary injunction on the 1st floor was entered.  The preliminary injunction against the 2nd and 3rd floors remained in full force and effect, with the exception allowing patrons to utilize the 2nd floor bathroom only. ( See Exhibit B, February 7, 2013 Court Order)
  4. On March 14, 2013, Defendant’s motion to modify the preliminary injunction entered on February 7, 2013 was denied.
  5. Inspectors from the Department of Buildings, Fire, and Health inspected the subject property on April 3, 2013. The results of that inspection identified the following dangerous and hazardous violations:
    1. The electrical system is in a dangerous condition. There is improper clearance for the main distribution of live front switchboard in the basement area.
    2. Bare electrical cable wires throughout the basement areas lack ground continuity and therefore pose a dangerous hazard to occupants and emergency responders.
    3. There are defective lights throughout the theater area, second floor bathroom, and second floor projector rooms, which are a dangerous and hazard.
    4. There is a defective live front service and main distribution board, as well as electrical panels, fire pump controllers, motors with exposed live feeds throughout the basement, first and second floors, and stage areas, which need to be replaced with a dead front.
    5. The ventilation system above the stage block specifically designed to vent flames and smoke in case of a fire is totally disabled. This condition poses an extremely dangerous hazard as the flames and smoke will back draft into the occupied auditorium putting all patrons at risk.
    6. Theater has not posted revised capacity placards. Recent change in exit pathways has altered egress including removal of fire escapes and construction of exterior stair systems. The floor plan used to obtain first level auditorium capacity placard is inaccurate. The existing toilet rooms are insufficient for current capacity.
    7. Unknown insulation material is used on the boiler and piping throughout the basement areas and there is missing and damaged insulation as well as insulation lying on the floor at some locations.  Insulation material requires evaluation.
    8. Inspectors observed that the fire curtain has not been tested in numerous years, despite the annual testing requirement.  The fusible links appear to be painted or covered with dirt, which could effect proper operation.  There is wiring and cables, which will block the fire curtain from dropping properly causing a breach in the four hour stage block.
    9. Approved fire extinguishers are missing from each side of the stage, each gallery above the stage level, the gridiron, and accessible places below the stage.
    10. Fire resistive separation between auditorium and stage block is in dangerous condition. The basement north fire door to the orchestra pit is badly corroded, there is an improperly infilled opening at the basement south fire door to the orchestra pit, the first floor fire doors at each side of stage do not close properly, there is a hole in the wall being used to run a bundle of cables to the auditorium area at the basement level north brick enclosure to orchestra pit, a gridiron level hole in the brick wall between the auditorium and the stage block is being used to provide access for piping, upper level door lacks self closing device on fire door, fire doors are improperly held open.
    11. There are no carbon monoxide detectors.
    12. The exit capacity at the northeast exit courtyard has been obstructed where safe exiting from the building has been significantly compromised. The presence of dumpsters, crowd control barricades, large steel gates, large steel tubs and designated disabled parking hamper travel and evacuation. The present conditions pose a dangerous hazard to employees and patron in any emergency egress.
    13. Crowd control barricades, being used near the front of the stage, are arranged in a manner that eliminates access to one half of the exit opens on each side of the stage.
    14. There are beverage dispensing stations and bars installed in the south main level exit corridor, balcony exit corridor, and in auditorium at the north and south exit aisles which obstruct access to exit doors.
    15. Management or owner contact information on building is missing from the premises.
    16. There is neither smoke nor fire detection in the loft space above the main ceiling. Breaches in the fire rated ceiling are used for rigging concert equipment creating a dangerous condition.
    17. Com Ed room in basement unlocked, main area of Com Ed feed under vaulted sidewalk grid work rotten out and firebrick wall supporting grid has collapsed in part.
    18. The catwalk for access above the ceiling in the auditorium, to rig shows and change lighting, is old and dilapidated posing risk of collapse. This condition poses a hazard to any unexpecting employee.
    19. New permanent generator needs test and exhaust needs to be extended from beneath stairs and away from fresh air intake. Carbon monoxide detector needs to be installed in generator area.
    20. Obstructions in the main lobby, 1st floor, and balcony, specifically bars and coat checks reduce the path of egress. Safe egress is significantly obstructed is any emergency exiting.
    21. Both the wooden platforms in the rear of the auditorium and the sound and lighting platform were constructed without plans and permits and are not non-combustible or approved fire rated material.
    22. The sprinkler heads in the VIP room and within the stage block are in dangerous condition. Inspectors observed that sprinkler heads have been painted and the inspectors were unable to test sprinklers of both areas to assure that the system is operational.
    23. There is no railing system to prevent falling in either the balcony or the VIP room.
    24. There is water in the basement near an open live front electrical panel.  The panel is in use and feeds through wiring which stretches around the basement area to numerous unprotected holes in order to feed the stage block and auditorium areas. The conditions pose an electrical fire hazard and possible electrocution to occupants.
    25. Inspectors observed a hole on the roof of the mechanical room tower. There is missing firebrick, which suggests that there could be other structural issues with the roof.
    26. Ventilation system is inoperable; vents have been blocked and sealed. There is no fresh air supply to patrons, nor is there any exhaust of polluted air from the theater.
  6. This Court may issue a preliminary injunction to prohibit any renting, usage, leasing or occupancy of the property and to order the Defendants to enclose a building. 65 ILCS 5/11-31-1(a).
  1. Where a statute or ordinance authorizes injunctive relief, a municipality need only show that the statute or ordinance was violated to obtain injunctive relief. See Riverdale v. Allied Waste Trans., Inc., 334 Ill.App.3d 224, 228-29 (1st Dist. 2002);Chicago v. Krisjon Constr. Co., 246 Ill.App.3d 950, 959 (1st Dist. 1993); Chicago v. Piotrowski, 215 Ill.App.3d 829, 834-35 (1st Dist. 1991).


  1. Based on the dangerous and hazardous nature of the building code violations, it is clear that the Congress Theater is a public nuisance and the continued operation of this business poses a continued harm to the occupants and the public. Accordingly, the City requests a preliminary injunction to prohibit use and occupancy of the Congress Theater or immediate full compliance on all dangerous and hazardous violations.

WHEREFORE, the City of Chicago respectfully requests that this Honorable Court:

A.  Advance the case for an immediate hearing on this Motion for Preliminary Injunction on April 18, 2013, in Courtroom 1111 of the Daley Center, at 11:00 am.

  1. Issue a preliminary injunction against Defendants to immediately vacate, and grant the City police powers to assist in the vacate if Defendants do not immediately do so, and to not rent/use/lease or occupy the 2117-2139 N. Milwaukee Ave. portion of the Subject Property where the Congress Theater is located or immediate full compliance on all dangerous and hazardous violations until further Order of Court;
  2. Authorize the City to use its police powers to effectuate the preliminary injunction;
  1. Such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.



Respectfully submitted,

Stephen R. Patton #90909
Corporation Counsel


Kimberly Roberts
Senior Counsel

City of Chicago Department of Law
Drug and Gang House Section
30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 700
Chicago, Illinois 60602-2590
Phone: (312) 744-5004


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