The Tower Theatre, the namesake and anchor of the Tower District in Fresno, is for sale, and neighbors are concerned about rumors of who the new owners may be.
A flyer from KW Commercial, a real estate broker, lists the asking price as $6.5 million.
According to buzz on social media, Adventure Church may be the buyer. The church already conducts Sunday services at the theater.
Neither the theater — owned for years by the Abbate family — nor the church responded to GV Wire’s request for comment.
Real estate databases show Tower Theatre Productions as the current owner.
Posts on social media raise concerns about the church’s perceived attitude toward the LGBT community and its potential impact on nearby businesses that sell alcohol.
Fresno/Tower District folks: I know little about the church looking to buy Tower Theater, but have heard that they’re very conservative and anti-LGBTQ+. Is anyone able to confirm? Links would be rad and highly appreciated.
— Derek Payton (@dmpayton) January 3, 2021
Could Church Ownership Reduce Tower Visitors?
“Bars and nightclubs can’t move in next door to your church or school for very good reason. Likewise, the reverse should not be true either.” — Tyler Mackey, Tower District Marketing Committee
For Tyler Mackey — executive director of the Tower District Marketing Committee — the concern of a church-owned Tower Theatre isn’t about ideology as it is about practicality.
“It would not affect existing conditional use permits for liquor that surround (the theater). But should any of those guys attempt to sell, they would not be able to sell their liquor license, which would devalue their businesses,” Mackey said.
Generally, liquor is not allowed to be sold if it is near a church.
“Bars and nightclubs can’t move in next door to your church or school for very good reason. Likewise, the reverse should not be true either,” Mackey said.
Mackey is also concerned that if a church owned the theater, it would not hold as many cultural and arts events that draw tens of thousands to the Tower District and its businesses.
“Even a thousand church parishioners would not have the same economic impact,” Mackey said.
Not About a Church Nor Ideology
Several comments on social media are concerned about a perceived LGBT-bias the church may have. Some of that may be based on an item found at Gay Central Valley, but GV Wire℠ has not been able to independently confirm the sale or details about the church’s policies.
The Tower District is known for its LGBT-friendly events, including a gay pride parade and the Pride Film Festival. Mackey concedes, though, that the owner of the theater has a right to determine what types of programming or shows are presented.
“If an organization comes in — an entertainment company, a totally legitimate entertainment company — decides that they want to come in and buy the theater, but they’re not interested in hosting Reel Pride … That’s their right,” Mackey said. “We don’t own the theater.”
Mackey said the church’s views are irrelevant. He has doubts the area at the corner of Olive and Wishon avenues is even zoned for a religious institution.
“It actually bothers me very much that this situation has the potential to break the community. This is a moment for unity. This is a moment for the community to come together and unify behind the municipal code,” Mackey said.
Councilman Miguel Arias is aware of the concerns. He says the city is exploring if the church would need a conditional use permit and other factors related to a possible sale.
Mackey would prefer an entertainment company purchase the theater, but said he does not want to stand in the way of the Abbate family selling.
“Financially, this may be the end of their rope. And it’s not for us to block a sale per se, because this could be a desperate … we don’t know what their financial holdings are. We don’t know what their burden is. And we should not be here to judge,” Mackey said.
Mackey has started a Facebook page “Save the Tower Theater.”