New owner of Patio Theater plans to renovate the venue
by BRIAN NADIG
New Patio Theater owner Chris Bauman likes the vibe that he gets from other merchants in the Irving-Austin business district and hopes the planned renovation of the 93-year-old theater will further the area’s revitalization.
"Theaters act as a natural marketing tool, bringing in first-time visitors (and) it funnels through the entire community," Bauman said.
The Zenith Music Group, which Bauman founded, has been managing the Patio, 6008 W. Irving Park Road, for about a year, and he is in the final stages of purchasing the theater building, which includes apartments and storefronts. Zenith manages several venues, including the Avondale Music Hall at 3336 N. Milwaukee Ave. and Shirley’s Piano Bar, 104 N. Cook St., Barrington.
The 1,490-seat Patio will continue to feature a mix of live music, comedy shows and classic films, including sing-alongs and plans for movie premieres, Bauman said.
The Patio, which for decades was a popular movie house, features an ornate auditorium with an atmospheric sky ceiling, which a former owner refurbished about 30 years ago. "Every time I walk the street, I hear, ‘My grandma took me there,’" Bauman said.
However, since the early 2000s, the theater has been closed on several occasions due to licensing problems, faulty air conditioning and other issues.
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said, "I’ve got nothing against" the previous operator but Bauman appears to have the vision and resources to help bring stability to the theater.
In the past year the theater’s seats have been refurbished, but Bauman said that more extensive renovations are planned.
"(Theaters) are really about creating an experience, and I really like giving these moments to people," he said.
Over the years large trucks have grazed the marquee due to the gradual widening of Irving Park Road, but any damage has been aesthetic in nature and does not pose a safety risk, Bauman said. He added that he envisions some "modernization" improvements to the marquee while maintaining its historical look.
One issue that Bauman does not think will be an obstacle to the theater’s revitalization is the lack of a dedicated parking lot for patrons. Typically 25 to 50 percent of concert patrons at a city venue are using ride share, he said.
"Uber … that’s really changed the dynamics of parking needs," Bauman said. "In the old days you needed to be along a train line, but those things have changed."
Bauman’s interest in the music industry goes back to his childhood.
"My grandpa was really into music, and I hung out with him a lot, (and) I started getting into it in high school, managing friends’ bands," Bauman said.