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Fresno Co. judge strikes down attempt to halt Tower Theatre sale

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Rosemary McGuire denied Sequoia Brewing’s request for an injunction to temporarily prevent the sale of the Tower Theatre to Adventure Church. 

The ruling paves the way for escrow to close on the sale to the church on March 31.

After signing a restraining order a couple weeks ago to halt the sale, Sequoia Brewing and Tower Theatre owner Laurence Abbate returned to court on Wednesday to present their final arguments. 

Sequoia Brewing – a tenant of the Tower Theatre premises – alleged that Abbate violated the lease agreement by not providing the brewery with the option to purchase the building which it is renting. 

That allegation turned out to be baseless. According to McGuire’s ruling, Abbate offered Sequoia Brewing a $1.268 million price tag for the building, which was supported by a professional appraisal. 

“[Sequoia Brewing] has not presented any evidence that the offered price was not a fair and reasonable price for the property,” McGuire wrote. “Furthermore, [Sequoia Brewing] has also failed to present any evidence that it is financially capable of purchasing the property if given the chance to do so.” 

In Wednesday’s hearing, Sequoia Brewing argued that Abbate’s refusal to share the terms of the sale of the whole property to Adventure Church with the brewery impeded its ability to make an offer on the leased building. 

That argument held no merit, McGuire ruled. 

“Yet, even if the landlord did disclose the total sale price that the Church is paying for the entire property, this would not necessarily clarify the price for the smaller premises parcel that [Sequoia Brewing] has the right to purchase,” McGuire wrote. “It is not clear how disclosing the total purchase price for the entire property would allow [Sequoia Brewing] to make an offer to purchase the smaller parcel.” 

The other main argument between both sides was whether the lease agreement gave Sequoia Brewing the right of first refusal to purchase the property or simply an option. 

McGuire found that the lease does in fact provide the brewery with the right of first refusal, but it appears that the contract has not been violated because Abbate offered the $1.268 million price. 

“Since [Abbate] has already given [Sequoia Brewing] the chance to purchase the property before the sale, it is not apparent how [Sequoia Brewing] has been injured, or why it should be entitled to an injunction to prevent the sale to the Church,” McGuire wrote. 

“Furthermore, the Church has stated that it is willing to sell the property to [Sequoia Brewing] after the sale. As a result, it does not appear likely that [Sequoia Brewing] will suffer any real harm to its interests, since it will still have the opportunity to purchase the property even after the sale.” 

According to court documents, escrow is set to close by the end of the month. However, Adventure Church could be further delayed if Sequoia Brewing decides to appeal the decision.

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.