CHICAGO
04/18/2012 05:13 pm ET

Congress Theater Controversy: Logan Square Venue Riles Some Neighbors

The Congress Theater, a popular and historic music venue in the city's Logan Square neighborhood, on Tuesday was the subject of a city hearing where community members and city officials alike criticized the theater as a public nuisance.

Police say they have received some 120 calls about the theater over the past 14 months and have reported 36 incidents there during that same period, according to WBEZ.

On New Year's Eve, an 18-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and beaten near the venue after she was turned away for not having an ID on her. Last weekend, WBEZ previously reported, a fight that broke out at a show there led to the closure of Milwaukee Avenue for a number of blocks in both directions. Over 20 police officers and fire officials responded to the scene.

Further, some neighbors say that noise, public intoxication and lax security have run rampant outside the theater, the Chicago Tribune reports. One neighbor, Jeff Strong, complained that a concertgoer threw a rock through a window of his home.

"I would like them to take more responsibility about security," Strong told the Tribune. "They don't seem interested in doing anything if they are not pressed."

In response to the criticism, Eddie Carranza, the venue's owner, and his staff contend that they are working to soundproof the theater better, according to the Tribune.

The Chicago Pipeline blog, which has been closely following the controversy surrounding the Congress Theater, reported that several participants in the hearing felt it was productive. No one said they were pushing to shut the venue down.

"Congress will have to take care of safety and security and neighbor concerns," neighbor Nina Ceteno told the Pipeline. "I don’t want them to close, either, but they have problems with unruly crowds, young shows. The root of this issue seems like it boils down to communication."

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) has publicly pushed for the venue to address the concerns of its neighbors. Ahead of the venue's Saturday show featuring Chicago rapper Chief Keef, he issued a letter, obtained by the Fake Shore Drive blog, to area residents and said he had paid "out of my own pocket" for community representatives to patrol the area. He told WBEZ that he hopes the venue will "remain open and get better" going forward.

"One of my responsibilities as your Alderman is to do all I can to provide for a safe and secure community," the letter concluded.

The issue is currently the subject of a lively EveryBlock discussion.

Tuesday's meeting was the first of three city hearings between the venue, city and public on the matter. The next meeting is slated for June 16. At stake in the process is the Chicago landmark's liquor license.

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