Tag Archives: portage park neighborhood association

Mediatrocities #7: Legendary Lew Interviews Chris Hefner on His Upcoming New Feature “The Poisoner”

poisonerChicago filmmaker Chris Hefner recently sat down with me and talked about his new movie The Poisoner, which will debut soon at The Portage Theater (you can help him screen the film sooner by visiting his website and buying a deluxe screening ticket).

Chris is a wonderfully talented director, whose first feature The Pink Hotel had a successful debut at The Music Box Theatre. Our talk discussed everything from his filmmaking approach and his start behind the camera to current methods of radically independent film production and distribution. If you have any interest at all in making films on the cheap but have them not looking that way, you really should give a listen.

This episode hosted by Legendary Lew. Produced and directed by Lew Ojeda. The closing theme is “Ghostsong” by Daniel Knox.


Mediatrocities Podcast #6.1: Remembering Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Lew Ojeda and Tyler Pistorius remember the influence Roger Ebert had on their lives and discuss the future of film after his passing. Included are a few choice clips of classic Ebert from his long-running classic TV series.

The Portage Theater Threatened AGAIN, This Time by the Building’s New Owner “Eddie” Carranza

UPDATE: WBEZ reported on this earlier with Carranza’s lawyer, Thomas   Raines making this statement about a meeting he had with John Arena:

“Something happened in that meeting [Wednesday] that changed all this, and it was something the Alderman said a few times and something he did,” Raines said Sunday morning. I know that’s not much for you and I know it’s kind of cryptic and it doesn’t do much to change your story or make us look any better. But right this minute, I can’t get into it, what he did. But he did something that made us change our position.”

So in other words: we can’t tell you, you won’t understand, it’ll make us look bad anyway, but Arena did and said something terrible.

What is this, a meeting of the Freemasons? If Raines thinks the terms brought forward to him were so bad, he should make them public and not treat us like children.


When the Portage Theater building was bought a few weeks ago by the current owner of the problem-plagued Congress Theater, some in the community were already sounding the warning while others were willing to give it a chance to develop positively.

Looks like the distrusting folks might have had a point.

Alderman John Arena just put out a very stinging statement about owner Erineo “Eddie” Carranza’s attempts to evict the current operators of The Portage Theater, despite assurances this would not be done–flat out calling him a liar. Here is Arena’s statement in its entirety:

***IMPORTANT*** In an effort to keep you posted on the continuing efforts to Save the Portage theater please read the following immediately.

Just two weeks ago, I told you that I was cautiously optimistic that we could work with Erineo “Eddie” Carranza, the new owner of the Portage Theater building, to improve this community treasure and the Six Corners retail district. I now know that is not the case.

My office learned early Saturday that Mr. Carranza is threatening to evict the current operators of the Portage Theater for lack of payment of a disputed amount of back rent. This is despite assurances Mr. Carranza gave the Old Irving Park Association, the Six Corners Association, the current operators, and me that he would not make any changes to the operations at the Portage in the short term. Additionally, Mr. Carranza’s attorney on Wednesday assured the operators and me that he would not evict the operators.

In short, Mr. Carranza lied to me, and he lied to the community.

It is not clear what Mr. Carranza thinks will happen should he follow through on his threat. The current operators are the holders of the liquor and public place of amusement licenses, and those licenses stay with the operators regardless of what Mr. Carranza does.

Additionally, in light of his well-documented problems at the Congress Theater, my office has repeatedly told Mr. Carranza that I would not support his holding of any liquor or public place of amusement licenses at the Portage Theater until he could prove, through a track record of problem-free management, that he had the ability to act as a responsible venue owner and liquor license holder. His documented history of deferred maintenance, rowdy crowds, and underage drinking at the Congress is not welcome at Six Corners.

Moving forward, I will encourage the current operators to explore their legal options. I expect they will operate in the theater until all those legal options are exhausted.

In the longer term, Mr. Carranza has already shown during his short ownership of the Portage that he is not a man of his word. I was willing to give Mr. Carranza a second chance to prove he had learned from his mistakes at the Congress. It seems now that Mr. Carranza has learned nothing. I’m disappointed but not surprised.

We still have options as a community, and my office will continue to explore all available avenues to ensure that the Portage Theater meets its potential as an economic engine at Six Corners. This may take some time, and I ask for your patience and continued support as we work through this.

Other development continues at Six Corners. We still have many exciting institutions and businesses coming to the area. I will do everything possible to make sure that continues. The Portage Theater is one of the cultural, economic, and historic icons of our community. I will continue to be its ceaseless advocate.

Thank you for reading.
Alderman John Arena

You will want to head here to read the entire statement, but it’s not good. It looks like The Portage Theater and the Six Corners community is up for another fight to save the Portage Theater.

I would, seriously, contact the Portage Park Neighborhood Association and tell them you support their continued efforts to save the Portage Theater as an independent venue of entertainment–free from the ownership of those who can’t be trusted with this important landmark.

Oh, and The Congress Theater’s number is 773-276-1235. Perhaps you can POLITELY contact them and let them know you don’t appreciate Mr. Carranza’s deception. Tell him you want the theater owners to remain in the building as previously agreed and not to be evicted.

Portage Theater is Sold

Portage Park Neighborhood Association and John Arena sent out an email on the new development in the ongoing drama over The Portage Theater.  (You can read the statement here. Just scroll halfway down the column)

It’s been sold to Eddie Carranza, current owner of The Congress Theater. The  big concern with much of the community is the reputation of The Congress Theater being a community nuisance. In April, neighbors near The Congress brought complaints about the venue to City Hall. Those grievances ranged from very loud music to issues of safety, magnified by the rape of an underage teen girl near the theater on New Year’s Eve. She had been turned away from the theater shortly before the incident.

I had been reading the Alderman Joe Moreno has been working with The Congress to improve conditions there. That’s great and I really hope this cooperation comes through.

I’ve not ever attended The Congress, so I can’t comment on it, but personally, I almost wish we could learn about the improvements and their effectiveness at The Congress first, before knowing the same owners will be working on an even bigger project with The Portage. I am heartened with their stated willingness to continue having a full range of programming, including films. Hopefully, they’ll allow for the non-profit film groups to still have a home there.

Be that as it may, you can rest assured the neighbors will be watching developments like a hawk.



The Portage Theater is Saved!

Alderman John Arena just posted the following on Facebook:

I was just informed that Chicago Tabernacle has withdrawn its application to the ZBA. I want to thank everyone who supported the Portage Theater throughout this process. Specifically but not limited to the Six Corners Assoc., PPNA, OIPA and JPNA. There are far too many individuals to list but Denis and Linda and his business partners should be thanks everyday for investing in the Portage Theater over 6 years ago. Join me tomorrow night at the Portage at 5 pm to celebrate these visionaries and the gem they polished and maintain in our community.

John Arena, Save the Portage Theater, PPNA, Six Corners, Old Irving Park and all those Chicagoans who spoke out, wrote and attended meetings and events to support the Portage are to be commended.

Indie entertainment lives! Chicago proves it’s a great town for the arts!


Chicago ZBA Set to Rule on the Future of The Portage Theater on Friday

Friday is the all-important date that determines the future of The Portage Theater. Chicago Tabernacle asked for and got an extension before a ruling by the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals. That extension expires on Friday and hopefully we can convince the Board that enough is enough.

This (hopefully final) meeting will be July 20 at 2pm at the Zoning Board of Appeals:

Zoning Board of Appeals
121 N LaSalle
Chicago, IL

This is a church that turned down other available abandoned properties in favor of taking over a functioning one.  If the Tabernacle takes over The Portage, numerous businesses set to open around the historic site will have to move elsewhere or not open at all.

The only assurances made public that I’ve ever read by the church that the sale would be beneficial were that churchgoers are local consumers, too (if that’s the case, I’ll be glad to go on a shopping spree with any of them in Fantasy Costumes before Halloween) and that they have a choir that provides entertainment.

Sorry, but these reasons don’t cut it.

The Portage Theater brings delight to the many thousands of people who’ve attended entertainment shows there. It’s one of the few remaining truly independent venues available for promoters, producers and artists. It’s a rental space open to a wide variety of interests, which brings up this point: Couldn’t Chicago Tabernacle just rent the space for a choir concert when needed?

Support this vibrant theater by joining the Facebook page, Save the Portage Theater. Go to The Portage and support them. Support the surrounding businesses and tell them you like The Portage as it is.

Come to the meeting and support this great theater! Sign this petition and share it with others. Thanks and see you there!

Zoning Board of Appeals Decision on The Portage: The Bad and the Good

More than 50 people showed up to support the Portage

The day finally came when the Chicago Zoning  Board of Appeals made a decision on the future of The Portage Theater.

More than 50 people showed up in support of The Portage Theater, a pretty good turnout for a weekday at 9am.

The ZBA took the Portage property case first, with the legal counsel of Chicago Tabernacle seeking an extension regarding the decision of the board. Citing “hardship”, the church claimed they weren’t given enough time to sort out all the particulars, especially with parts of The Portage now up for landmark designation.

A Six Corners Association rep and Alderman John Arena argued strictly along economic lines. Allowing the church to buy The Portage would stifle economic growth for Six Corners and the surrounding neighborhoods. Leases for businesses waiting to open near The Portage would be in jeopardy if the church was allowed purchase or with further delays.

The Board took note for the record that there were quite a number of people showing up opposed to the church purchase (over 50).

The bad news: ZBA decided to delay a decision on the sale of the property for 30 days (until July 20th).

The good news: This time period was half of what church counsel requested. In fact, when asked how long a delay was necessary to basically get its act together, counsel responded “oh, about a couple of months,” eliciting derisive laughter from some in the audience.

I think the ZBA was trying its best to be fair under the circumstances, but I definitely got a read that the chairman was frustrated with church counsel.  It doesn’t look good when you don’t have all “your ducks in a row” as the chairman implied and you get a significant number of people siding against you showing up.

The next ZBA hearing will be July 20th at 2pm. Mark your calendars NOW.

The chairman could not affirm that 7/20/2012 will be the absolute final date of the decision, but it seems clear he doesn’t want this dragging on indefinitely, which is what Chicago Tabernacle seems intent on doing.

This Week is Do or Die for Chicago’s Portage Theater to Be Saved From a Church Takeover –Your Help is Crucial

The final Zoning Board meeting determining the future of The Portage Theater will be held on Friday, June 15, 2012. This could determine if The Portage Theater can be saved from being purchased by a megachurch for their own use and alterations.

The Zoning Board meeting will be held:
Friday, June 15, 2012
9am at 121 N LaSalle Rm 200
Chicago, IL

If you plan to go, be sure to be ready to attend the entire day. Take the day off work if need be.  In addition, you can write to the Zoning Board using this letter and email it Alderman John Arena.

Phillip Schwartz, President of Portage Park Neighborhood Association, is trying to organize a busload of 50 people or more to attend the meeting. However, he needs to know by Monday, June 11 if he will have enough people to make this happen. Contact the PPNA at ppnainfo@gmail.com, contact them here or join the PPNA on Facebook and tell them you’d like to get on the bus.

Then, on Saturday, you can wear your sunglasses at night and help Portage Park break a world record! Bring your sunglasses for the free event at The Portage Theater, featuring singer/songwriter Corey Hart as he performs the hit tune. They’re shooting for 1300 or more fans. Yeah, it can happen.

Will the City of Chicago Buy The Portage Theater?

The latest chapter of the efforts to save The Portage Theater from being sold to Chicago Tabernacle takes an interesting turn.

Alderman John Arena announced he brought forth an ordinance allowing the City of Chicago to purchase The Portage to then be hopefully sold to buyers who would preserve the building and maintain its previous use. From the Alderman:

Recently, I filed an ordinance authorizing the City to exercise its powers of eminent domain to buy the building. This is not a step that I take lightly. I have consulted with the Mayor’s administration, and we remain hopeful that we can preserve this critical economic engine without implementing this solution.

The reasons for this action are two-fold:  (1) to avoid the sale to the church or any other non-profit that would eliminate a tax base needed for the area,  and (2) to speed up the process of having new businesses requiring liquor and amusement licenses open near the theater.

Several restaurants and potential cultural attractions are waiting for the resolution of this issue before they come to our community. The church’s proposed use for the Portage would make it impossible for anyone to get a liquor license within 100 feet of the building. It would make it impossible for anyone to get a public place of amusement license (needed for music venues and most theaters) within 250 feet without the church’s permission. Because the Portage Theater building is so large, these zones would extend to the south side of Irving Park Road, in addition to Milwaukee Avenue near the theater.

Simply put, the proposed use would gouge a huge hole in Six Corners where there would be no new restaurants, and where any proposed theater or entertainment venue would require the church’s permission. It would stifle development at a time when Six Corners is ready to take off. This community has worked too hard for too long for me not to use every option available to preserve and enhance this economic and cultural engine.

I continue to remain ready to help Chicago Tabernacle with alternative sites. Thank you for your continued support of this community treasure.

Let’s hope the City is okay with this and that Chicago Tabernacle will finally agree to an alternative building.

Portage Theater: Zoning Board Grants Chicago Tabernacle More Time

The Zoning Board of Appeals allowed The Chicago Tabernacle more time for its application of a special use permit in their attempts to purchase The Portage Theater. Here’s the statement from Alderman John Arena in its entirety:

At the request of the Chicago Tabernacle Church, the Zoning Board of Appeals today granted a continuance on the church’s application for a special use permit to operate the Portage Theater as a house of worship. The date is not yet certain.
I vigorously opposed the continuance. Because of restrictions on liquor and entertainment uses near a church, four separate projects are awaiting the a decision on this request before they will proceed. I’ll keep you informed of further developments in the process.
The upside of the deferral is that we can continue to organize within our communities to inform the Zoning Board of Appeals of the detrimental impact this special use would have on the heart of our redeveloping business district.
I’ll continue to work with the church on finding an alternative location for their services. My goal from the beginning has been to find a solution that works for the community and the church. We welcome them to the community, but not at the Portage Theater.
Thank you for your continued support of this community treasure.

In some ways, this doesn’t help Chicago Tabernacle. Portage Theater supporters have not only shown up in large numbers, they’ve been growing locally, nationally and internationally. The cause of saving The Portage will only grow at this point, and the recent granting of preliminary landmark consideration will only help.

The Chicago Tabernacle hasn’t come up with any viable counter to all this, other than the assurance that they have choir entertainment that will be open to the public. It’s time for the church to simply accept another location and be done with this.