City Shuts Down Port Clinton Garage and Highland Park Movie Theater

Both venues have violated fire safety codes, according to the City of Highland Park.

Highland Park's City Council has unanimously decided to shut down the Port Clinton Garage and the Highland Park Theater due to fire saftey violations, according to a statement released by Mayor Nancy Rotering.

The decisions come as a result of preliminary findings by Fire Chief Pat Tanner "during an independent inspection of fire safety conditions [that] started Thursday and [is] still on-going."


These independent inspections had been ordered by the council after concerns were raised about the security of the venues.

“Public safety is paramount and the conditions highlighted by the inspectors were unacceptable,” said Mayor Nancy Rotering in the statement. “We are taking necessary steps to ensure public safety.”

And while the City Council "expects the Port Clinton Garage issues to be rectified as quickly as possible...the theater situation is much more complex."

Fixing the theater may be costly and requires "additonal analysis before a final determination" to close permanently can be made.

Share your thoughts on the closures via Facebook. Stay tuned for more on the story. 

forest barbieri May 07, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Ok, I do not know the facts but based on our recent tax bills let's hope we get the garage up and running ASAP. Also not sure of the issue with the theater but did we not due dilligence on this and why would public safety be an issue on a venue purchased by the city and run for the last couple of years? Just saying:) The public needs more information on these issues.
Mr. HP May 07, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I feel bad for the restaurants on the east side of downtown. I thought we wanted to have more people come to Highland Park , but not now.
Anonymous May 07, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Forest, very valid point if there were safety violations with the HP Theatre why has the city not taken care of them considering they own the theatre.. This makes no sense..
Redhead May 07, 2012 at 03:54 AM
People have been talking for years about the H.P. movie theater being a fire trap. We stopped going there for that reason a long time ago. I agree with the comments before mine - why did the city spend so much money on property without having it checked out for fire regulation compliance. UGH, this story keeps getting worse.
Anonymous May 07, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Its a quick fix to shut it down rather than fix it or sell it. The village owns it. Who are you going to blame for not maintaining it and keeping it up to standards that are safe. You cant pass the blame on this to anyone but our City for not taking care of this over the last couple of years..... Come on.......
mike belsky May 07, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I agree that if there are safety violations they should be addressed. However, I do feel the City has and should have opportunities to sell the Theatre based on a good concept discussed below. This opportunity was at hand ,yet the purchase was so politicized in the past that it made this difficult to move forward. The last census indicated that Highland Park is aging in place. Highgland Park is also a place with many spoerts fans. Highland Park is also a destination for arts and entertainment for many people on the North Shore. So here is the concept that warrants consideration today-specify a bid that includes the following: 1) Digital theatres where orchestras; operas; and live theatre can be piped in from remote locations 2) Do the same for sporting events such as the final four, the Super Bowl, etc.3) Enable the serving of alcohol and food- the latter should be less than a meal so as to not compete with area restaraunts 4) Enable rentals for corporate events during slow nights 5) Build in the ability to convert one of the movie theatres into a stage for live performance such as jazz, comedy, or lecutres. With leadership and vision this sort of facility would be an additional economic development engine for the City, generating addtional sales tax and enhanced propoerty values downtown.
Michael Gordon May 07, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Richard M Daley hasn't moved into HP, has he? Will we wake up one morning to read that the HP Theater had to be torn down in the middle of the night due to "fire safety concerns" that the city didn't find in their inspection of the property before they purchased it, and the regular annual fire inspections of the property that must take place as regular as with any business in the city?
Alan Moss May 07, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Speaking of the safety of the theater, Makes me think of Captain Renault in Casablance, "Rick, I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"
forest barbieri May 07, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Mike: Under who's leadership and grand vision was the theater originally purchased? Also, whom did the due dilligence relative to public safety that is now disclosed?
Daniel May 07, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Great comments Mike. First learn how to spell. Next admit it was your stupid idea to buy it in the first place. Why would a city buy a Theater that was in horrible shape 10 years ago? Probably the dumbest idea the city ever had and it was yours. Just hide somewhere Mike. The only thing dumber was your role in screwing up pensions for public workers around the country. Your participation in setting unrealistic rates of return was a major cause in pension problems.
Ed Brill May 07, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I don't think the due diligence point is really relevant... how long have the issues been in place is a somewhat more relevant question. Putting this on the previous administration (Mayor Belsky or Limardi, who we're surely going to hear as a scapegoat) is easy politics but we're talking months or years.
David Greenberg May 07, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Re: #4 - I contacted the Theater years ago about doing just that - renting out the facility for a private showing of a movie. No one picked up the phone. So I sent an email. 6 months after sending the email (yep, six months), I got an email back that it could be done, but no other information. More emails ensued, but the deal wasn't attractive, and the numbers weren't provided, so we passed on it... And it's something that we would have liked to have done several times since the initial request. Fast forward: We have a big TV and great sound system with all the seating we need, so no need for the theater... The other concepts are interesting - but are they really going to be sustainable sources of income? I'd need to see lots more financials on it first...
David Greenberg May 07, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Re: the violations - does anyone have the preliminary report they can share?
The Q May 07, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Was this guy really mayor? Oy vey
Andrea Hart May 07, 2012 at 11:21 PM
I just spoke with the Fire Chief—we'll have a fuller story coming shortly. But they can't release any results yet until they have the final report.
David Greenberg May 07, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Excellent. Looking forward to more details... Thanx much!
HP insider May 08, 2012 at 12:50 AM
The Highland Park News has details of the violations as well as the fallout.
Ellie May 08, 2012 at 04:46 AM
How sad if the theater closes - a real loss to downtown Highland Park! Although I live in a different suburb, I grew up in Highland Park and remember many enjoyable Friday and Saturday evenings at the HP theater. It certainly has "character" and history - if not landmark status. Remember, Winnetka kept its Community House.... Profits aren't everything.
Taxpayer May 11, 2012 at 02:20 AM
This situation, particularly with respect to the Port Clinton garage, seems like a bit of grandstanding and over- reaction. Safety is important, but stationing watchers in the garage would be an acceptable alternative solution to shutting it down, pending repairs, given the absence of any fires in the garage in its 30+ year life. All the emergency meetings also seem melodramatic.
Steve Firestone May 11, 2012 at 09:48 PM
I used to go to the Alcyon when I was a kid. Restore it back to one large theater, and get better movies. Everyone has a small theater at home now. Amp old style movie theater maybe just the thing!
anonymous May 31, 2012 at 11:20 AM
I think the old theatre is great! It gives the town character. I think having live music in one stage while adding alcohol and food would be a lucrative idea. I went to school in Champaign, where they had a brew and view. Movie theaters that offer these services are few and far between and would attract people from nearby towns.


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