Court allows sale of Fresno's Tower Theatre

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A court has allowed for the controversial sale of Fresno's iconic Tower Theatre.

RELATED: Protesters line sidewalk outside Tower Theatre as sale dispute continues

A Fresno County judge on Thursday denied a request by the owners of the Sequoia Brewing Company to halt the sale to Adventure Church.

Earlier this year, they had filed a lawsuit saying their lease agreement with the theatre's owners gives them the right to buy the property if it's up for sale.

RELATED: Sequoia Brewing Company to take legal action in Tower Theatre dispute

Sequoia Brewing Company accused Tower Theatre Properties of fraudulent concealment, for not notifying them of the potential sale to the church, claiming it's a violation of their right of first refusal to buy the venue.

Sequoia also claimed Adventure Church knew about their right of first refusal and conspired to conceal the sale.

RELATED: Tower Theatre owners, Adventure Church 'conspired to conceal sale,' Sequoia Brewing Company lawsuit says

It believes the church and the landlord had been negotiating since August.

The judge rejected these claims, citing evidence provided by Tower Theatre Properties that it did give Sequoia Brewing notice of the pending sale and the option to buy it.



The judge also pointed out that Sequoia Brewing's owners had not demonstrated that they had the ability to purchase the property before the sale, and the church had said it would be willing to sell part of the property to Sequoia Brewing after it gets ownership.

Concerns in the Tower District are growing after the ruling on Thursday.

Those with group Save the Tower Theatre say the sale will impact the district, which prides itself on inclusivity.

"If this is going to be converted into a church it is not going to attract the same diversity of people," said Jaguar Bennett with the group.

After the ruling, district one council member Esmeralda Soria issued a statement that said:

"I am deeply concerned about the ongoing dispute over the future of Tower Theatre. There have been a number of protests and a lawsuit by Sequoia. The injunction has been denied in that lawsuit but the case itself remains pending in court. The City is working tirelessly to find a resolution that is satisfactory for everyone through our attorneys and negotiations. I urge everyone to remain calm while the legal case involving Tower Theatre is decided and while our attorneys continue to work towards a satisfactory resolution."

Bennett said the sale could have drastic implications on the Tower District's economy.

He said if the Tower Theatre is rezoned for worship, places that sell alcohol could lose their liquor licenses.

"Liquor licenses are not allowed this close to a church and the entire economic development of this neighborhood depends on bars and night clubs," he said.

Save the Tower Theatre is now shifting its focus to prevent the rezoning of the church.

Bennett said a rezone request would have to go through three community boards before reaching the city council.

"At every step on that process, residents, business owners and residents of the Tower District will be expressing their (concerns)," he said.

The sale of the theatre is expected to close at the end of this month.

Meanwhile Bennett said his group plans to continue their demonstrations to have their voices heard.
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