Senator changes management

While the renovation to the outside of Chico’s Senator Theater continues to gleam in its new-paint and marquee glory, the inside job is proving more of a headache.

This week the off-stage drama continued when Damon Fadale, a 34-year-old builder/developer, real estate agent and potential Chico City Council candidate, announced he was backing out of the theater’s interior-upgrade operation less than five months after signing a two-year lease with the building’s owner, Eric Hart.

“The theater is up and running now,” he said. “It’s functioning, and now I can get back to work” in his other vocations.

Both Hart and Fadale confirmed that scheduled shows, including a visit by radio journalist Amy Goodman in September, will not be affected by the change.

“[Fadale] has done a great job,” said Hart. “But he’s got a family, and the late nights were beginning to get to him. He’s achieved some of his goals; the theater is up and operational. We’ve left on really good terms.”

One interested party surprised to hear of Fadale’s sudden departure was Azariha Reynolds, part owner of The Bean Scene Coffee House and Gallery and local music promoter.

“That is not very pleasing news,” Reynolds said. He said one of his partners had signed a contract with Fadale to operate the theater’s concessions for some upcoming shows. Still, he was not surprised by how he learned the latest information.

“At the last gig we showed up for, nobody contacted us to tell us it was cancelled,” Reynolds said.

Hart purchased the theater in 2000 from United Artists and at first worked out an agreement with the nonprofit Right Now Foundation, which ripped out the interior walls that had separated the 1,500 seat venue into four movie theaters. After a couple years, a lot of sweat equity, money and a number of events, Right Now and Hart parted ways on a sour note—Hart said the nonprofit owed back rent, the nonprofit folks said Hart had misled them.

Then a church group tried to work a deal, but that fell through before it got off the ground.

Now Hart said he will take more of an active role in the theater’s interior renovation. He said he also plans to build a five-story building right next to the theater that will include a courtyard common to both buildings as well as a restaurant. He said promoter Justin Maximov will continue to book shows. Hart encouraged anyone else interested in putting on a show to give him a call.

One local and experienced contractor, who wished to remain anonymous, told the News & Review recently that the outside renovation was the easy part. The inside remodeling, the contractor said, was the real challenge and most likely not worth the money it would take to do it right and bring it into compliance with modern-day building codes.

Fadale told this paper last spring that he had done his homework and was very familiar with the 77-year-old theater’s condition. “The hard part’s over,” he said at the time. “Now, it’s all academic.”

This week he said he was tired of picking up beer cups at 4 in the morning and was happy to move on.

“Running the facility is not quite what I had in mind,” he said. “Now, just the remodeling part, that was fine. You don’t know about these things until you give it a try.”

Fadale said the legal liability involved in the renovation project gave him cause for concern and said “it was just a matter of time” before something bad happens.

Still he stressed the harmony between him and Hart.

"There’s not going to be a hiccup, nothing in the operational plans will change," he said. "We’ve made the fire marshal happy, and there is just no need for me anymore. I’m not a promoter."