This past Friday, The Pipeline came across a post on the Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association’s message board soliciting the community’s participation in an April 17th hearing at City Hall’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection [BACP] chambers to discuss “BACP Status- 2135 N. Milwaukee IG#12-AT-351.”
“Please try and attend the April 17th, 11:30am hearing at City Hall, 8th Floor, in regards to the impact Congress Theater has had on the community,” wrote Ronda Locke, 1st Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno’s Director of Community Outreach.
“As some of you may know,” Locke continued, “the Alderman has been facilitating conversations between Congress Theater and the Community. There have been some commitments made by Congress management but have not yet been honored and therefore, upon review with the 14th Police District Commander, the Alderman has requested that we pursue Deleterious Impact/Public Nuisance proceedings.
We need community representatives to attend the meeting and be willing to express the issues and the impact that the patrons of Congress has had on their quality of life. The city’s corporate council will mediate and if commitments are not honored Congress could possibly lose their liquor license. If you would like more information on the process, please see the following link. Please spread the word– open to all. We understand that the room can only hold 50 people and we are hoping that we can continue the positive engagement by this community and work out some positive outcomes.”
The first response came from Joe Kopera, a community advocate that has spent over five decades of his life just a block away from the Congress and was recently honored by Ald. Moreno with an Honorary Parkway.
“The Congress Theater has always been and continues to be a good neighbor. Yes there are problems here and there but this action is not necessary. They have always been willing to work with the community. Get real people work with them and stop this unnecessary action,” Kopera wrote.
Gwen Kasper, Principal of Sabin Magnet School, 2216 W. Hirsch, weighed in. “In all my dealings with representatives from the Congress Theater they have been nothing but responsive and supportive. I‘m glad to read someone else is sticking up for all of them at Congress Theater,” she shared.
“What does this mean? Are people trying to get the Congress Theater shut down? Did the rape, that was totally unrelated to the practices at the Congress Theater, get people so upset that they want to take it out on someone and shut down this neighborhood theater?” wondered Brian.
Kathi wrote, “Over the years I have attended concerts there as have my children. If for one moment I thought it was a dangerous environment I would not let them go. I’m happy to have it as part of Logan Square, it is one of if not the largest attractions for our neighborhood. The farmers market in Congress has been another wonderful addition to our community. Are the people sending out these emails really trying to help the community or are they trying to shut Congress down for personal reasons? I’m wondering if they have anything personally to gain from the demise of Congress? This sounds like a personal vendetta to me as I have not seen one valid point made by our community leaders. Leaders please lead us, tell us specifically what Congress has done wrong?”
Kathi’s question, posed and posted on Friday, has remained unanswered as of today by our Community Leaders who started the dialogue. Only Victoria Schmidt, who is not to this reporter’s knowledge a known community leader, took it upon herself to deflect accusations of a personal vendetta.
Earlier today, Schmidt wrote, in a response to this reporter’s post, “We all see the merit of The Congress in this community. I do not have a vendetta (it’s not personal).”
In Schmidt’s postings, she focuses her energies on the drug culture associated with electronic/dubstep music. Schmidt was also the first commenter to juxtapose the Congress against a nearby venue, V-Live, at 2047 N. Milwaukee.
“As promoters, V-Live and The Congress are indeed rivals for the same shows. I would like to clarify one point regarding my use of “impeccable standards” as applied to V-Live. In order to receive a zoning upgrade for increased capacity, they had to agree to a restrictive covenant which outlined impeccable standards,” Schmidt replied.OK Corral, into the discussion proved timely. Former governor Rod Blagojevich went to jailthis past week to serve a 15-year prison term, and it was only a few years ago when Blago’s campaign adviser, Christopher Kelly, died of a drug overdose after being banned from V-Live.
Per a Sept. 16 2009 Sun-Times story, Kelly was ordered to be held without bail for his role in an $8.5 million O’Hare Airport contract fraud, and “The government’s request came after Kelly got into what one source described as a shouting match with an owner of V-Live Club. Kelly had demanded to see the club’s books. He had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the business through his girlfriend, Clarissa Flores, sources familiar with the exchange said….. After his guilty plea, Kelly agreed not to go near the club at 2047 N. Milwaukee.”
Just one month after Kelly, banned from V-Live, killed himself, Ramiro Guevera, age 17, died on V-Live’s premises from a gunshot to his head, per this NBC report. The gunman fled, and four other men got into a fight and were arrested.
In other V-Live news, Ald. Moreno held his election night victory party at V-Live in February 2011. Additionally, V-Live played host to the First Ward First kickoff on June 30, 2011.
The Pipeline’s currently using www.ilrefrence.com to gather numbers regarding V-Live’s campaign contributions to Moreno.
On October 8, 2010, Ald. Moreno went on a well-publicized ‘ride along’ with 14th District Police Commander Linda Flores, per this 1st Ward e-newsletter, just four months before Feb. 22, 2011 aldermanic and mayoral election.
In an Aug. 15th, 2011 interview with Wbez’s Jim DeRogatis, Moreno boasts:
“I shut down an illegal club on Milwaukee Avenue, where there was trouble and way too many people gathering at a restaurant that was being used as a club. They were not serving food; there was alcohol in there, there were thugs, fights, and girls being sexually assaulted. So we shut it down. One of the questions they asked me was, “Well, you’re supposed to be the music alderman.” I said, “Here’s the problem: On Milwaukee Avenue, I’ve got the Double Door, Subterranean, Debonair, the Crocodile, etc. These guys know how to do it. I don’t want them hurt because of what you’re doing. I don’t want someone saying, “Milwaukee Avenue is up for grabs; what the heck, shut them all down.” That’s a mini-E2-type situation that could have happened.”
While The Pipeline has no proof that the illegal nightclub in question was V-Live, it was speculated by some locals that the club “busted” by Moreno on Oct. 8, 2010 was V-Live. In an Everyblock.com post, “Where was that illegal nightclub on Milwaukee Avenue?, even Everyblock’s founder wonders where this mysterious club is that was featured in Ald. Moreno’s own e-newsletter, in Time Out and much later, WBEZ.
Per Metromix, V-Live books music shows from Aragon and Live Nation.
Ald. Moreno refers to his support of the ‘Empty Bottles of the world’ and SubT and Double Door in the WBEZ interview, and to accompany his words is a photo of him that was snapped inside of the Congress during the 2010 Back to School Health Fair, yet there is no mention of the health fair having occurred inside of the Congress.
Moreno says in the WBEZ interview, “But back to this whole national versus local interest thing: There is a back-to-school fair here in a couple weeks. Last year we gave away 1,500 backpacks. You know who supports this when I reach out? The Empty Bottle. The Double Door. The Girls Rock! Camp. To get some of the national guys like Bank of America? Forget it.”
Perhaps that is a case of silence speaking volumes. How is it possible that considering the plethora of well-documented media circulating about our neighborhood’s ‘music loving hipster alderman,’ the Congress Theater is rarely mentioned by Moreno, though it’s the 1st Ward’s largest music venue and revenue generator?
Could it be too much of a stretch to entertain the possibility that the impending Deleterious Impact/Public Nuisance proceedings are less about the girl who got raped near the Congress, and a new music genre, and more likely related to the fact Congress is booking popular sold-out electronic/Dubstep shows that V-Live would like to capitalize on, along with Live Nation, Aragon, and most any venue owner?
Maybe it’s time for the hardworking folks in the City’s BACP dept. who will be evaluating Congress’s licensing on the 17th, to read how Ald. Moreno really feels about them. Again, a quote from Moreno from the WBEZ interview with DeRogatis.
“The problem is that the City Council as a whole doesn’t get the distinctions between the good, legal venues and the troublesome, illegal ones. They don’t get it. So, back to a Music Office, we definitely need some people who do get it. People who have been to these places, unlike employees in the business department for 25 years who are looking at the business licenses and fines who have never been to any of these places. I’m not saying you have to be an aficionado or a geek/fan about it. But they need to get it, and if they don’t get it, they have to want to learn it.”
As Moreno prepares to give City Hall’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection workers an education on the music business, right down to the venues he perceives to be “good” and “legal” while exposing “the troublesome, illegal ones,” The Pipeline wonders what kind of impact musicians, fans of music, promoters, community pillars, and neighbors can make when they show their support of the one single venue that has opted out of the hype. April 17, 2012. 11:30am. 8th Floor. City Hall. Save the date. As Locke writes in her post, “please spread the word– open to all.”
Update: 2/20/12 According to Locke, the illegal club that was busted was Geisha Sushi, 1255 N. Milwaukee. Geisha closed last year.
The Pipeline is finding out if V-Live has ever had a BACP hearing at City Hall.
Except from a telephone conversation with Locke: “There is absolutely, positively no connection between V-Live, Live Nation, Aragon, and this hearing… The reality is that these issues only tend to be problematic when there are certain types of music shows. We want the Congress to honor the commitments they’ve already made to the community.” For a description of these commitments, visit this recap from a Jan. 10th Meeting with community members, Ald. Moreno, and Congress theater representatives.