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IN ROGERS PARK NEIGHBORHOOD OF CHICAGO, Fastidiously-Renovated Cabaret Might Close!

Good Afternoon, Folks!

When you work so hard to bring something somewhat historical back to life, you hate to see the financial side not work out, and the project fail.  Unfortunately, that seems to be happening yet again, to a small, just-renovated music venue on the Far North Side of Chicago.

The 299-seat Morse Theatre, on the 1300 Block of West Morse Avenue in the Rogers Park Neighborhood of Chicago, sits one block east of the CTA El Stop that bears the street's name.  It's about 2 blocks west of bustling Sheridan Road, and another block to comparatively-secluded Lake Michigan Beaches.

As chronicled by Howard Reich in the February 12th edition of the Chicago Tribune, the venue began its life as a silent movie and vaudeville house in 1912.  Over the years, the building housed a several legitimate theatre companies, and even a synagogue.  In the early 1980's, however, the building fell on hard times, and sat vacant for many years.

Fast forward to the theatre's complete renovation and re-opening in October, 2008.  The theatre arranged its tables and booths old cabaret style, in the theme of the old AmazingGrace Coffee House up the road in Evanston IL, which closed its doors nearly three decades ago.  The new owners envisioned  a popular gathering spot for musicians and those who enjoy music, similar to the Old Town School of Folk Music further south, in the Lincoln Square Neighborhood of Chicago.

Musical fare has been varied - jazz, classical, world beats.  And crowds were encouraging, although today's economic downturn may have contributed to a smaller audience in recent months.  The biggest recent audience came for a celebration of President Obama's Inauguration last month.

Today, a disagreement between the Morse Theatre's Management Team and a silent partner who provided much of the financing for the renovation appears headed to court, and is likely to threaten the continued viability of the theatre.  Andy McGhee, the Manager of the theatre, is booking no new performance dates, and has notified several artists already booked that those event have been canceled.

This is not the first threat the newly-renovated cabaret has faced.  Last August, an apparent arson fire damaged the building, still in renovation.  The fire caused $500,000 in damage, and delayed the opening of the theatre three months.

Indeed, the theatre is a very inviting place, and nearly acoustically perfect.   Many local fans, including those on our Team, would hate to see it go.


Comment balloon 2 commentsDean Moss • February 16 2009 02:30PM


I went to school at Loyola in the early 90s.  I have fond memories of that neighborhood.

Posted by Carol Spengel, Wheaton IL (Prudential Rubloff ) about 10 years ago

It sounds like it would be a shame to lose this theatre.  I'm afraid the snowball effect of the economic downturn will see more of these situations.  Maybe an artistic "angel" will save the day.

Posted by Marilyn Katz, ABR, e-PRO - WestportCTProperties.com (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) about 10 years ago

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