Salinas Theater’s Future|Shaky, Thanks to City

     MONTEREY, Calif. (CN) – The owner of an historic theater in downtown Salinas says the city reneged on promises the building didn’t need an earthquake retrofit – made when it sold him the building in 2007.
     Plaintiff Anthony Lane and his firm Entertainment Lane Inc. sued the city of Salinas for fraud, fraud by suppression of fact, unfair competition, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and intentional infliction of emotional distress in state court on April 27.
     Seven city officials are included as “Doe” defendants.
     During Lane’s ownership the Fox Theater Salinas has been host to many “big name” performers and acts, beginning with Lane’s friend and noted California comedian George Lopez. The theater has also been the venue for banquets, proms, weddings, plays, quinceaneras, and conventions.
     In 2011 and 2012, the complaint states, the city illegally compelled Lane to shut down the theater to correct various “life safety issues,” including an unreinforced masonry wall which plaintiffs claim is not part of the building.
     Last year the city ordered Lane to post a boldfaced sign reading “Earthquake Warning” and stating that occupants may not be safe inside. Since that time, promoters have been unwilling to book any new performers and acts – causing Lane’s loss of revenue, income, and credit reputation, the 10-page complaint states.
     Lane alleges he asked Salinas officials to address four issues in 2006 before he agreed to buy the building at 239 S. Main St.: liquor license requirements; sprinkler systems; handicap access, and seismic retrofitting. The officials affirmatively, but falsely and fraudulently according to Lane, said the theater did not have any of these issues.
     Relying on these assurances, he ultimately bought the theater, the complaint states.
     The city’s recent actions are the result of a “confidential engineering report” concerning the building, dated March 1976, that was suddenly “found” by city employees. This report wasn’t disclosed to Lane at the 2006 meeting, and Lane claims it was “suppressed and hidden.”
     Two key facts in the 1976 report are that the theater does not have any brick masonry walls and its type of construction is classified as a different type than what the city contends it is today, Lane says.
     The Salinas Fox Theater isn’t included in the 1989 unreinforced masonry building list – required of all unreinforced masonry buildings under state law – despite the city’s statutory duty to place all unreinforced masonry buildings on the list, according to the complaint.
     The city officials with whom Lane met in 2006 are named in the complaint as assistant director of Salinas’ community and economic development department Alan Stumpf; Ed Montes of the Salinas Fire Department; Salinas inspection services manager Mike Stone; assistant City Attorney Christopher Calihan; Courtney Laresh of the Salinas Redevelopment Agency; city planning manager Courtney Grossman; and then-city manager David Mora.
     Neither Lane nor his attorney, Anthony Sales of Stockton, Calif., were available for comment on the lawsuit. Stumpf was in a meeting when contacted and did not return the call.
     The popular entertainment facility first opened in November 1921 as the T & D Theater. It was sold to the Fox West Coast Theatres chain in 1930 and renamed the Fox California.
     Through the years the theater underwent several renovations to keep up with style trends and technology advancements. Lane and his brother gave the theater its present name and turned it into a multi-use venue when they bought it. In addition to a full-sized stage and screen for live performances and movies in its two-story interior, the theater features banquet seating and catering facilities for up to 350 guests, ceremony seating up to 1000, and has three bars.

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