The impending sale of the Tower Theatre will remain on hold, an appeal court ruled Tuesday.
The transaction between the theater’s owner, and its buyer Adventure Church, has led to protests, counter-demonstrations, and lawsuits.
J&A Mash and Barrel, the parent company of Sequoia Brewing Company, sued to block the sale. The brewery/restaurant claimed it has the right of first refusal to purchase the building it currently leases from the theater.
Last week, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Rosemary McGuire refused to grant an injunction requested by Sequoia Brewing, which would have halted the sale until a full trial could be held.
With escrow expected to close on Wednesday, the sale is paused by legal action for the second time.
Pastor Anthony Flores of Adventure Church was not surprised.
“No reaction really. We expect this whole thing to play out, and in the end, we will be satisfied with the Lord’s will,” Flores said via text message.
District Court of Appeal Intervenes
Attorneys for Sequoia then petitioned for a writ of mandate, which was granted by Fifth District Court of Appeal Judge Donald Franson.
“Having conducted a preliminary review of the matter, (the Superior Court order) is hereby ordered stayed pending determination of the petition in the above entitled action, or until further ruling of this court,” Franson wrote in a two-page decision.
Franson’s ruling also calls for Tower Theatre Properties to “cease and desist all conduct relating to any sale” of the portion of the property leased to Sequoia Brewing.
Kimberly Mayhew, attorney for Sequoia, says the stay (stopping of the current legal action) lasts until a further ruling of the appeal court. Additional legal briefs from the involved attorneys are due April 6 and April 13.
Lawsuit in Superior Court
A month after the impending sale to the church became public, Sequoia Brewing filed a lawsuit in Fresno Superior Court in February. It also asked for an injunction to prevent the sale from taking place until the trial could be heard.
Judge McGuire initially granted a temporary restraining order until she could make a ruling on the injunction. After a hearing on March 17 that lasted approximately an hour, McGuire denied the injunction the following day.
She also ordered removal of a “lis pendens,” a legal notice filed with the Fresno County Assessor’s office that could slow down the recording of any property sale. Mayhew said normally it takes 20 days from a judge’s order to remove the lis pendens.
Last Friday, attorneys for Sequoia Brewing asked the appeal court to intervene, charging that McGuire erred in her interpretations of whether the theater offered a sale of the building. Court documents showed the theater offered the brewery its portion of the Tower complex for $1.2 million.
The brewery balked because it did not receive proper documentation on how much Adventure Church was willing to pay.
No matter how the appeal court eventually rules, the court case on the legality of the sale itself will continue in Superior Court. A case management conference is scheduled for July 14.
Read the Appeal Court Stay