Escrow for the sale of the Tower Theatre to Adventure Church has expired, but how the updated status will affect a the future of the iconic venue is unclear.
The expiration of escrow was revealed in a legal brief filed with the Fifth District Court of Appeal by the attorney for the Tower Theatre.
“The deadline was not extended beyond March 31, 2021. Once escrow is terminated, Defendant will withdraw the property from the market and consider alternative plans,” Tower Theatre Properties, Inc. attorney C. Frederick Meine III wrote.
The defendant in the case before the court is Tower Theatre Properties, Inc. The company is being sued over claims that J&A Mash and Barrel, the parent company of Sequoia Brewing Company, was entitled to the first right to buy the portion of the Tower property it leases.
When a property is in escrow, it means there is a legal agreement between the buyer and seller in an exclusive contract until the close or dissolution of the sale.
While the statement in the court brief indicates the transaction between the theater and the church is over, no one is saying what their intentions are.
Meine, and Adventure Church Pastor Anthony Flores declined comment. The theater owners did not respond to a request for comment.
Sale Sparked Ongoing Protests
The sale has led to three months of protests from the community, taking place every Sunday. Various groups are concerned with the effect a church operating at the Tower Theatre would have on licensed alcohol and cannabis retailers nearby as well as the appropriateness of the church as the theatre’s owner.
“The Save the Tower Theatre Demonstration Committee will continue its demonstrations until the Tower Theatre and Adventure Church formally announce that the sale has been permanently canceled,” Haley White, a committee member said in a news release.
Does Brewery Want the Entire Property?
In the 17-page brief filed by Tower Theatre attorneys, it said the restaurant/brewery wants to buy the entire property, not just the portion it leases.
Court documents revealed that the theater offered to sell Sequoia Brewing the restaurant property for $1.2 million. A November 2020 appraisal from the church’s lender helped set that price.
The theater made its offer to sell after Sequoia Brewing filed its lawsuit.
“(Sequoia Brewing) let that offer expire and has made it clear that it wants to purchase the larger parcel rather than the small piece that it currently leases. It is apparent that (Sequoia Brewing’s) legal campaign is funded by a GoFundMe account with the sole goal of preventing the church from owning the Tower Theater,” the brief said.
Opponents of the sale to the church established a GoFundMe account that raised nearly $48,000 of a $50,000 goal as of Wednesday.
Sequoia’s attorney, Kimberly Mayhew, confirmed her client made an offer for all of the theater complex.
“Yes, as part of a settlement discussion, our clients did inquire about purchasing the entire legal parcel. We received no substantive response from the landlord. Neither the Church nor the landlord has been willing to engage in any substantive settlement discussions, despite the pastor’s statements to the media that he welcomes a solution that works for everyone. We would need a dialogue to explore such solutions, but we have been the only party pursuing any discussions,” Mayhew said in an email.
Sequoia Brewing Company sought an injunction to delay the sale of the Tower property until a trial could be held. After Fresno County Superior Court Judge Rosemary McGuire heard the request on March 17, she denied the injunction a day later.
Sequoia appealed McGuire’s decision, prompting Judge Donald Franson to issue his own order temporarily halting the sale.