BARBERTON: City Council members decided to postpone the vote on Lake Cinemas 8 Monday night after current tenant Phil Canfora said he would not sign a temporary agreement.
The recommended agreement up for the vote was to extend the lease for six months and reduce the monthly rent from $2,000 to $1,500.
Canfora said the new deal would be pointless because the $400,000 digital program with Sony, for which he applied last year and was accepted, will not move forward with installation if there is not a concrete lease in place.
The deadline for Sony is Thursday, so Mayor Bill Judge said he will sit down with Canfora on Tuesday morning and reach an agreement before the end of the week. Council is expected to hold a special meeting this afternoon to continue discussions.
“Our main goal is to keep the theater running,” Judge said. “We can’t continue to put this on the back of the taxpayers. We want to make sure we get paid this time. To be $98,000 in the rear is not good business practice.”
Judge called for collateral to protect the city’s investments. Canfora assured he would provide a personal guarantee for all expenses if the city gives him a lease agreement.
Canfora proposed a five-year lease agreement in his application for the theater, in which he would pay off the $98,000 he owes the city in $500 monthly increments. He paid his first $500 last month.
“If we don’t find a way to do this, we will just politely go away,” Canfora said.
Council President Fred Maurer and council member John Wagner agreed with Judge’s hesitation, but stressed concern for the city if Canfora was to leave the theater.
“There’s a liability on the city if we just walk away from this,” Maurer said. “The only logical way to proceed is we have to go ahead with it. Shuttering the building is not an option.”
The theater is one of the few draws to downtown, Wagner added, and shuttering the building would just hurt other downtown businesses.
The search for a new tenant arose in mid-November when Judge put out a “request for proposed use” throughout Northeast Ohio to find new development ideas for the facility.
Canfora was the only applicant for the space. He has been unable to pay the $2,000 monthly rent to the city for about three years, but said previously that former Mayor Bob Genet allowed him to show movies regardless.
A committee made up of members representing City Council, the Planning Commission, developers and residents was created to determine the theater’s future and made a recommendation to Canfora at the beginning of the year.