Has the Congress Run its Course?

Congress Theater, Chicago’s most infamous classical theater, has been given a chance to stay open after years of safety violations, neighborhood complaints and threats from the city. During an inspection on April 12, 26 violations were found but another inspection on the 22nd revealed that most of the problems have been fixed. The ventilation system has been repaired and a fire curtain has been installed. The city now requires that the capacity be limited to 3,000 people and the balcony remain closed until Eddie Carranza, the theater’s owner, adds a backup generator and fixes the lighting system.

Still, Carranza faces a series of other issues. Congress is a hotbed for Chicago youth enjoying EDM music, and often teen partying. Congress frequently plays host to Latin students looking to find a good time on a Friday or Saturday night. Like Sophomore Audrey Stiffle said, “Congress always has great concerts, but a bad reputation.” Residents of Logan Square have been complaining about the problems that come with every show for years. More attention was brought to the situation after New Years Eve of 2011, when a girl was raped and beaten around the theater after a Rusko concert and three 16 year olds were charged with the crime. There has also been a concern for safety inside of the venue. Last May, seven teens were picked up in ambulances from Congress, most on ecstasy and all drunk. Reports say that some of the teens weren’t breathing by the time the paramedics arrived. The Liquor Control Commission is also threatening to take away Carranza’s liquor license due to the amount of complaints from residents of Logan Square, reports of drunk people disturbing the peace around Congress after shows. Without a liquor license, the profit made at the venue with each concert be severely hurt. The third hearing for that is on the 30th. There are more inspections scheduled to make sure Carranza is working on fixing the rest of the violations, and the next hearing is on the 9th.

Junior Cynthia Trujillo goes to concert’s at Congress frequently and says that she “[doesn’t] mind that it’s dirty and super unsanitary, but reading the stuff about how they [had] vents blocked off and serious safety concerns made me kind of nervous about it…I do love Congress though and I was hoping it would pass the inspection.” Carranza claims to have “learned a lot from [the] hearings and from the community” and that “everything that they bring up or suggest, we are very much applying to our business.” I hope that’s true, because Congress has had some of Chicago’s best performances (Coheed and Cambria, Wu-Tang, Nas and Lauryn Hill, Evanescence, Kendrick Lamar, ZZ Top and Weezer, just to name a few) and it’s got heart and great musical vibes, but unless it can go back to being a safe place that respects the community, it’s time to shut it down.