Patio Theater closing after A/C problems
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Patio Theater owner Demetri Kouvalis said that he will close the theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Road, at the end of the month because he does not have the money to fix the building’s air conditioning system.
Kouvalis said and that he is seeking an investor to provide funding and that he also is considering selling the building.
Last year the theater was forced to close during the summer because of the broken air conditioning system, and it opened in the fall under a new business model. The theater reopened in 2011 after being closed for about 10 years.
The theater formerly showed movies several weeks after their release, but Kouvalis expanded the theater’s live programming and rental business and was considering operating the theater on a nonprofit basis. He said last year that it is difficult for an older single-screen theater to compete with newer multiplexes. Before that, Kouvalis was able to raise money through Kickstarter to purchase a new digital projector.
"Basically the A/C unit is broken down and I just don’t have the money to fix it, so we are closing it for the summer and I need to find an investor who has experience with operating a theater in order to sustain it," Kouvalis said. "Either that, or I will sell the building to someone who wants to keep it a theater."
"I’m looking for someone who has experience operating a theater and who knows what they are doing," Kouvalis said. "That’s it for me and I’m closing it for now, but I’m hopeful that it will reopen soon under new management."
Kouvalis hoped to pay for the repairs to the air conditioning system with a portion of a $100,000 Small Business Improvement Fund grant that he was seeking from the city, but his application was picked near the bottom of a lottery that all of the 15 applicants were required to enter because there was not enough money to cover all the applications.
Alderman Timothy Cullerton (38th) said that he was upset after he learned that the theater is closing because he worked hard to secure the money which was available.
"Many people worked hard on this thing," Cullerton said. "He qualified for a SBIF grant and he won the lottery that set aside $100,000. He qualified for that grant, and when the money ran out I worked with the planning department and we were able to put that money back in. The money was there. He just didn’t submit the paperwork."
Cullerton has said that the Patio helped revitalize the commercial district at Irving Park Road and Austin Avenue. He said that the SBIF program, which is funded through funds from tax increment financing districts, pays for improvements to small businesses.
However, Kouvalis said that the SBIF grant would not have helped him much. "You have to actually have the $100,000 before the city reimburses you later," he said. "Maybe it’s because of my age, but I can’t secure $20,000 let alone $100,000. Last year has just been a catastrophic time."
Also last year, a broken boiler system dating back to 1927 at the theater forced the Northwest Chicago Film Society to move to the Siskel Film Center for the remaining portion of its season, but the owner of the theater said that the boiler would be repaired and that the group could return next year. Now the group is looking for a new home again.
The Northwest Chicago Film Society has been using the theater to show classic movies after the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., closed in May.