FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – An appeals court has ruled in favor of a Fresno bar in the sale of the Tower Theater to the Adventure Community Church.
A decision of 5and The Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the Sequoia Brewing Company has suspended the sale of the theater for now.
People who oppose the church’s permanent location in the theater say the move gives them more time to try to get the Fresno City Council to act.
“This is a big win for Sequoia, this is a big win for the Tower District community, and this is a big win for the rule of law,” said Jaguar Bennett of the Save the Tower Theater Committee.
Bennett says selling the theater to Adventure Church would negatively impact not just Sequoia Brewing Company, but the entire neighborhood and nightlife community.
The decision details the back and forth between Sequoia and the theater. Court documents show Sequoia landlords say their lease shows a right of first refusal, meaning they believed it would allow them to buy the Tower Theater properties if they ever came up for sale.
Court documents say the theater owners began the process of selling the property to the church before letting Sequoia know they wanted to sell.
Now the judge has placed a ‘lis pendens’ on the property, meaning litigation is ongoing.
Lawyer and legal analyst Charles Magill says that although this is a temporary halt, it could stop the sale altogether. Magill says he thinks there are ways homeowners can cope.
“If it was just for the property they were on and the parking lot surrounding their property because they need it for their business, then it might still sell, the city would just have to subdivide it to honor that contract,” explains Magill.
In the meantime, Bennett says he would like to see more action from the city council. He says even without the sale, the church meeting at the theater every Sunday is still a problem.
“As long as the Church of Adventure continues to meet here, in violation of zoning laws, the job is not quite done,” Bennett said.
We contacted the Adventure Church pastor, but he said he didn’t want to comment at this time. It will likely be months before this case comes back to a judge.