Portage closed ‘indefinitely’ over license dispute

Last Friday’s indefinite closing of the historic Portage theatre won’t leave the city stranded for film or concert venues. The Patio Theatre and the Music Box Theatre quickly rescued the screening of the Northwest Chicago Film Society’s two shows that were scheduled to screen this week at the Portage. 

The 93-year old landmark Portage, at the Six Corners intersection at 4050 N. Milwaukee, was closed after Ald. John Arena (45th) blocked owner Eddie Carranza’s application for a liquor license.  It’s unknown when (or if) Carranza will be able to get a liquor license for the Portage, since his application for a liquor license for his Congress Theatre was also rejected.

Apparently Arenas and Carranza have been locked in a feud  for  a while, with Arena saying Carranza has no business sense for ”for spending $2.7 million on a theatre that was up and running so he could close it down,” and Carranza accusing the alderman of “trying to control and scrutinize anyone trying to open a business in Six Corners.”

Carranza said he was forced to close the Portage until he can find a renter, which could take many months.

The Patio and the Music Box stepped up within 24 hours after the Portage closing was made public to offer their services to the Northwest Chicago Film Society, which estimates it’s screened more than 100 films at the Portage since February, 2011.  

The Music Box will present the restoration of Shirley Clarke’s “Portrait of Jason” Wednesday, May 29 and the Patio presented Douglas Sirk’s “All I Desire” Monday, May 27.   

“The outpouring of support over the last few days has been tremendously gratifying,” says Rebecca Hall, executive director of the Northwest Chicago Film society.  “We will continue to screen rare films from archives, studio vaults, and private collectors as long as our audience remains vibrant, curious, and engaged.”

Other shows that regularly took place at the Portage were Monster John’s Monster Shows, that abruptly cancelled Saturday, and the Silent Film Society of Chicago.

A “Save the Portage Theatre” campaign has started on Facebook.  Carranza has invested more than $100,000 in the theatre’s renovation and stewardship.