A Fresno County judge will decide whether to block the sale of a portion of the Tower Theatre.
Judge Rosemary McGuire will hear a request from the owners of Sequoia Brewing Company to place an injunction on the sale of the building they lease from the owners of the Tower Theatre.
The owner of the theater is in the process of selling its property — including the iconic theater and other buildings on that block that are leased to restaurants — to Adventure Church.
The restaurant/brewer alleges its lease gives them the first right to buy the building, something that has been denied.
The hearing is set for Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
It is unclear what happens to the rest of the sale if McGuire grants a preliminary injunction.
Protesters — several from the Tower District community — opposed the sale since news of the church’s pending purchase became public last month. Some are concerned about the effect the church will have on surrounding businesses that sell liquor and drugs. Others say the church is not a proper fit for the neighborhood.
Real estate broker Jared Ennis has told GV Wire℠ in the past that escrow — the legal period between the preliminary sale and when it becomes final — is supposed to close by mid-February.
Fresno County Assessor Paul Dictos says paperwork for the sale had not been filed in his office as of Friday morning.
In an amendment to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, J&A Mash & Barrel, LLC — the corporate entity owning Sequoia Brewing Company — added Adventure Church as a defendant and two new causes of action, fraudulent concealment and tortious interference with a contract.
The church has been renting the theater for events for the past several years, and for weekly services since last May.
According to the lawsuit, Sequoia has the first right of refusal to purchase the building housing its Tower District restaurant, currently under lease through 2022. When it found out about the sale, the restaurant demanded information about the sale. It has been attempting to exercise its right since at least Jan. 25.
“Despite these demands, Landlord refused to provide Plaintiff any information about the offer of Church or the agreement between Landlord and Church,” the suit said.
Regarding the church’s role, the suit says, “Church thereafter conspired with Landlord to conceal from Plaintiff their negotiations and agreement to purchase the Premises.”
In addition to seeking a restraining order, the lawsuit requests damages “to punish” both the Tower Theatre owners and the church.
A different judge, Gabriel Brickey, is listed in court documents to hear the lawsuit itself. The next date, a case management conference, is scheduled for June 24.
GV Wire℠ reached out to the theater owner and its attorney, but did not receive an immediate response.