NewCity Chicago : Street Smart Chicago - July 5, 2001
411 - Newcity's Seven Days in Chicago


By NewCity Staff Writers

Things seem bleak for the Charybdis Multi-Arts Complex in Jefferson Park after a June 27 public meeting revealed a number of hostile residents, who labeled the group as pornographers and made it clear that they want it out of their neighborhood. Charybdis shut down after being cited by the city twice in late May for holding functions without a public-place-of-amusement (PPA) license. They can't do anything without that license, and they can't get that license until the building in which they rent space (4423 North Milwaukee) receives a zoning change. Though 45th Ward Ald. Patrick Levar's public meeting was supposed to be about the zoning change, it became a fight about whether the complex, which offers "space for anything artists want to do," should stay in Jefferson Park. Though there was loud support, the major issue became complaints from residents who had visited the Charybdis Website and found photos from King Velveeda's 1998 Court of Porn, held at the complex's former space in Wicker Park. (The Website has since been cleaned up.) Despite assurances from Charybdis guru Gregor Mortis that this kind of activity would not occur in the new space (he noted that the group has operated differently in every space it's inhabited), not everyone believed it. "I do not want pornographic parties on Milwaukee Avenue," said one resident. "This is not Wicker Park. I do not want to live in Wicker Park, and I entrust this alderman to make sure that this does not become what Wicker Park is." About two hours into the meeting, Levar intimated that he'd been blocking the zoning change in order to stop Charybdis from applying for the PPA license because of constituent complaints about material on the Charybdis Website. "If he [Mortis] gets the zoning, then he has the opportunity to apply for the PPA," Levar said. "If the zoning is approved, the alderman is out of it. It goes to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and they get to vote on this." Even if Charybdis wins this round, it still may not be able to stay and operate. In order to get a PPA license they must provide off-street parking (i.e. rent lots) to accommodate 10 percent of the people who could possibly occupy their space. Formerly a bowling alley, it's now 14,000-square-feet of open space, which means maximum occupancy might be increased, making it difficult for them to provide parking. In addition, each lot they might rent would require another public hearing before it could be rezoned for the additional use.