Enchanted Playhouse agrees to pay $12,500 in back rent, vacate Main Street Theatre by Jan. 31, 2019 but contends any sale to another entity would be illegal
By Reggie Ellis
VISALIA – A children’s theater company and the City of Visalia almost ended a 10-month struggle over downtown’s Main Street Theater last week. And while the parties agreed to settle on the amount of back rent due and when the theater company would vacate the property they failed to agree on what the city should do with the property.
The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company (EPTC) agreed to pay $12,500 in back rent to the City of Visalia, and to vacate the Main Street Theatre by Jan. 31, 2019. The agreement was pursuant to an Oct. 9 Stipulated Entry of Judgement that was accepted by the Tulare County Superior Court. The Theatre Company is also required to pay $2,000 per month in rent by the first of every month through January. This court judgement comes as part of a settlement that was agreed to by both parties in response to the City having to file an Unlawful Detainer Action for back rent.
On Sept. 28, the theater company had prepared and issued a check in the amount of $12,500 for the rent owed the city stating, “The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company is pleased that the city has provided a full accounting of the amount owed and the outstanding balance can now be paid in full.”
Vice Mayor Bob Link indicated that it was gratifying that the City’s legal position was upheld, but he said it appears this legal action may not be the last.
“We made an offer to waive the back rent as well as future rent through January 2019 if there was no further legal action,” said the Vice Mayor. “That would have meant about $21,000 in net benefit for the Theatre Company that they could have used to continue Children’s Theatre in this area. Unfortunately, they declined that offer, which we believe sends a strong signal that they intend to file additional legal action against the City.”
At the Theatre Company’s request, the City also agreed to delay the move out date by 30 days. The original notice of lease termination was Aug. 31, 2018, which was extended until Dec. 31, 2018, and now stands at Jan. 31, 2019. The Theatre Company currently has events planned at the Main Street Theatre through Dec. 15, 2018 and indicated they needed additional time to transition to a new facility.
The theater company said it will continue its vigorous fundraising efforts and offer a full schedule of performances during this time. EPTC’s production of “Once Upon a Pandora’s Box” will continue through Oct. 19. On Oct. 20, the Main Street Theater and Garden Street Plaza will play host to a silent auction and concert featuring the Valley’s premiere cover band Run 4 Cover. EPTC’s “A Night of the Arts” talent show will be held at the theater on Dec. 15 and “A Christmas Carol,” a one man show performed by local actor Kelly Ventura, will show on Dec. 7 and 8. EPTC is even holding auditions on Nov. 5 and 6 for its February 2019 production of “The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe.”
In a released statement, EPTC said it had hoped the extension through January would provide additional time for good faith negotiations with the City on several issues surrounding the Main Street Theatre building but those hopes were dashed late last week when the city announced it would bring the sale of the building back for a vote at its Oct. 15 meeting. The City was set to vote on a viable cash offer of $515,000 for the building on Monday night, which happened after press time. EPTC contends that the sale of the Main Street Theatre to anyone other than them would violate state law. The city’s 2004 resolution of necessity for eminent domain to buy the Main Street Theatre specifically listed the “public use and purpose” for the property to “ensure that children’s entertainment and live theater entertainment in general continues to be provided in the subject area of downtown Visalia.” According to the statute, EPTC argues that in order to sell the property the city must develop a new resolution of necessity showing that the property no longer fits the use for which it was originally taken over.
“The sad truth is that the city of Visalia has not complied with any of the government codes or codes of civil procedure regarding the sale of eminent domain properties or surplus properties,” EPTC claimed in a released statement. “Unless these criteria are met the sale of an eminent domain property to a private developer is illegal.”
The offer considered by the City Monday night was in response to an original Request for Proposal to solicit offers for the Main Street Theatre in February. The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company did not submit a proposal by the deadline, and several months after the deadline, made a public plea to the City Council for more time to submit a proposal.
At the request of theater company board members, the Council provided the EPTC with the additional time and again outlined the parameters the proposal needed to meet, including a minimum bid amount and a viable financing plan that did not include the City providing financing. ETPC’s offer letter was non-specific as to price, and required the City to finance an interest only loan for five years. After reviewing the offer letter, the Council informed EPTC that their proposal was considered non-responsive.
“It is a shame that Visalia’s children’s theater with limited financial resources must threaten legal action in order for the city to obey the law and to uncover the city’s mismanagement of the entire sales process,” EPTC stated.
EPTC contends its financial stake in the building is $1.2 million, twice that of the city’s when it purchased the building for $600,000 in 2004. The children’s theater company said it was saddened by the the city’s choice not to respond to EPTC’s offer to conduct good faith negotiations to purchase the Main Street Theatre.
“The council’s decision to not respond to our repeated requests for good faith negotiations is a strong indicator that the Visalia city council never supported keeping our children’s theater downtown,” stated ETPC.