Nadig Press - Wednesday May 23, 2001
Front Page

City inspectors raid Charybdis

by Brian Nadig
Staff Writer

The Charybdis Multi-Arts Complex, 4423 N. Milwaukee Ave., will remain open for free community events, but art-related performances have been canceled following a raid there by city inspectors and police at 1 a.m. Sunday, May 20, according to the studio’s owner, Gregor Mortis.

Mortis, who was arrested during the raid, was cited for failing to have a public place of amusement license, a public place of amusement license for an event attended primarily by minors, and a retail food establishment license, and also was cited for allowing liquor consumption on the premises, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) District police.

Confiscated during the raid was $225 in entrance fees, which were collected during an interactive art performance that evening, and about $1,400 that was found to be in Mortis’ possession, according to police reports.

Mortis said that he has been attempting to obtain the proper licenses for his business but that he cannot be issued an amusement license without a zoning change on the property. He said that Alderman Patrick Levar (45th) has been blocking his attempts to have a public hearing on the proposed zoning change and that he believes Levar ordered the raid.

”We’re trying to do things by the rules,” Mortis said. He wore a set of handcuffs during an interview and said that he was doing so in order to illustrate his plight.

MORTIS DISPUTES charges that primarily minors occupied the performance art studio at the time of the raid. The identification of all visitors was checked that evening, and about 90 percent of them were at least age 21, while the others were no younger than 18, he said.

Many residents have signed a petition in favor of the zoning request after touring the complex’s facilities, Mortis said, adding that Levar has refused to visit. Neighborhood children often play after school on the complex’s indoor skateboard facilities, he said. Levar could not be reached for comment.

Mortis said that he recently received a business license from the city and that visitors are asked to pay an entrance “donation” for some events and also are encouraged to make a donation for non-alcoholic beverages and snacks that are available. The money collected is used to pay the rent and other expenses, he said, adding that he is not paid a salary for operating the complex.

While some visitors bring alcohol to the complex’s performances, Charybdis does not sell liquor and takes precautions to ensure that those under the age of 21 do not consume alcohol while there, Mortis said.

MORTIS SAID that inspectors with the city Department of Revenue treated him unfairly during the raid and that one inspector ordered officers to arrest him after he questioned why a bowl of candy was being confiscated. Police then handcuffed him and took him to the 16th District police station, where he spent about 6 hours in a jail cell before being released, he said.

A police report described the candy as “an unknown substance.” Mortis said that authorities indicated that the candy would be tested for the presence of illegal substances.

Mortis described the candy as “factory-sealed” Blow Pop suckers that had been donated to Charybdis. He said the use or sale of illegal drugs is not allowed at Charybdis. A bottle of vodka, a bottle of beer and a bottle of wine also were confiscated, police said.

According to police, 125 patrons were inside the complex at the time of the raid. After undercover agents with the revenue department were charged $10 each for admission, they determined that Charybdis was operating without the proper licenses, and officers entered the premises, police said.

The patrons were kept there for several hours while officers checked their identification and recorded their names, Mortis said.

At a free community barbecue scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Charybdis, residents will be informed about the unfair treatment that the complex has received from city officials, Mortis said. Because entrance fees will not be collected for the barbecue, such a community event should not be in violation of the cease and desist orders issued against the complex, he said.

Charybdis also is planning a grassroots campaign to notify the art community throughout the country about recent events, he said. “Jefferson Park is going to be on the map,” he said.

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