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Patio Theater Continues Restoration, Launches Membership Program While Doors Closed

“I don’t even know how I’ve been able keep up since this started going down. It’s been extremely challenging,” the Patio Theater's owner said.

The Patio Theater
Alex Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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PORTAGE PARK — The owner of the Patio Theater has been working to restore the 93-year-old venue while waiting out the pandemic.

Crews over the weekend replaced and repainted the marquee’s damaged sheet metal and swapped out some of the burnt-out lights. It’s one of the many small restoration projects owner Chris Bauman has been chipping away at while the venue is closed. 

Bauman bought the 29,508-square-foot theater at 6008 W. Irving Park Road last year, booking live events and screening films. But it’s been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A performance at the Patio Theater before the pandemic.

Working through the pandemic is like trying to navigate a storm with no end in sight, Bauman said.

Since March, Bauman has applied for aid like the Paycheck Protection Program loan and joined other independent venues in asking Congress to help them survive until they can safely reopen.

“I don’t even know how I’ve been able to keep up since this started going down. It’s been extremely challenging,” Bauman said.

Bauman also launched a $10-a-month a membership program in April so fans can support the Patio and its restoration efforts while it remains closed. Other than helping save the theater, members will get free and discounted concert tickets, unlimited access to all Patio Theater-sponsored movies and members-only events — once it can safely reopen. 

Bauman doesn’t expect to show films or host live events until sometime after Illinois enters Phase 5 — which won’t happen until there’s a vaccine, widespread treatment for COVID-19 or no new cases at all. Chicago’s top doctor said Tuesday it may take years for the coronavirus pandemic to be over in the city. 

“You can’t replicate the energy of a live show. Our business is built on social gatherings, and this pandemic is like a tornado that flew in and wrecked the entire industry,” Bauman said. “We’re still piecing it back together, but even when we can reopen safely it’s going to take time for artists to tour like they used to or for the audience to feel confident in going to shows again.”

RELATED: Music Venues, Theaters Keeping Doors Shut As City Reopens: ‘More Cost-Effective To Stay Closed’

Before the pandemic, Bauman often spent his mornings calling booking agents and band managers. Now he is calling Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth as a member of the National Independent Venue Association. 

The association’s members include other local venues, like the Metro, Subterranean and The Hideout. The group has pushed elected officials to support the Save Our Stages campaign, which asks Congress to help independent venues by passing the Save Our Stages Act and the RESTART Act. 

“Members of the Illinois delegation we’ve talked to have been really great. They’ve been supportive and what we want to do is have at least 3 million people email Congress asking them to support Save Our Stages before the current session is done,” Bauman said.

“We want to be as loud as possible and let them know about 90 percent of independent venues may close without any kind of federal government relief.”

RELATED: Can The Patio Theater Finally Return To Its Former Glory? New Owner Aims To Bring Historic Theater Back To Life

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