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Wal Mart Stores : Last-minute drama puts Movie Tavern back in limbo

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05/20/2017 | 04:09 am

May 20--LOWER MACUNGIE TOWNSHIP -- Someone write a script already.

A last-minute legal formality over a tiny parcel of land has cast the beleaguered Movie Tavern plan in Lower Macungie Township back in limbo.

Jaindl Land Co. is one signature away from putting to bed the development plan for Trexler Business Center, which would feature the Lehigh Valley's first cinema-eatery. That signature, of township Board of Commissioners President Doug Brown, would allow developer David Jaindl to record the plan and Movie Tavern to close on its property sale and begin construction.

But Lower Macungie will not sign the plan until all right of ways are dedicated to the township with clear title -- without any liens, including mortgages. And the release of two mortgages on a 126-square-foot strip of land along a planned Hamilton Boulevard entrance could take more than a month.

Movie Tavern, which is scheduled to close on the property sale Thursday, already has delayed the opening until next spring, according to Kade Pittman, the company's director of real estate. It cannot wait any longer.

"If we have to wait another six weeks for a mortgage to be released, then we have a big problem," Pittman said Friday. "That could create a situation that's very unfortunate for David."

Movie Tavern, which offers patrons food and drinks served at their seats, announced in October 2015 it would open its first cinema-eatery in the Lehigh Valley at Jaindl's proposed site on Hamilton Boulevard east of the Wal-Mart Supercenter and West Valley Marketplace.

The 116,000-square-foot retail development would feature four other retail pads plus the existing Bastian Carpet One. The main entrance would be between Bastian and Hamilton Animal Care in the 6100 block of Hamilton Boulevard.

The township review of the development plan offered a smorgasbord of local government dramas: an effort to save historic sycamore trees, a neighborhood crusade against the proposed height of the theater's tower, fighting words over traffic impact fees and a whole lot of history between the developer and public officials. More than once, Movie Tavern considered walking away.

Lower Macungie approved the plan last October. But, according to township solicitor Richard Somach, Jaindl acquired the Hamilton Boulevard right of way from the owners of the Hamilton Animal Care just this month.

Before Jaindl can turn around and give the township the right of way, Hamilton Animal Care owners Owen DeVos and Lisa Scibetta must obtain releases of two mortgages from Key Bank National Association. That process could take four to six weeks, Somach told commissioners Thursday.

Somach drafted an indemnification agreement that would have enabled Jaindl to record the plan before the official release of the mortgages and would have protected the township from any future legal action.

But commissioners rejected the agreement, saying they did not feel the need to get involved in a transaction between two private parties.

"This is an issue that should have been taken care of a long time ago," Commissioner Ron W. Beitler said.

"I feel for Movie Tavern," he added. "I know they're as frustrated with this developer as we are."

Jaindl did not attend the meeting.

"Representatives of Jaindl had asked if they needed to be here," Somach told commissioners. "I didn't think it would be any kind of controversial issue."

Reached Friday evening, Jaindl said he's worked diligently with Movie Tavern and surrounding neighbors, including the veterinary hospital, to advance the development plan. He called Beitler's comments unfair and said the indemnification agreement should have been a "no-brainer."

"They went against the better judgment of their solicitor," Jaindl said. "The risk to the township is zero."

The Movie Tavern in Trexlertown would be 46,500 square feet and feature 11 screens. The Dallas company, a subsidiary of VSS-Southern Theatres LLC, introduced a revamped menu this month at its 23 locations.

The company also is hoping to bring a Movie Tavern to the eastern end of the Lehigh Valley, Pittman said. He said he's working on finalizing a deal.

Pittman hoped to open the Trexlertown Movie Tavern in time for the December release of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

"It's certainly a disappointment -- we hate missing the big films, and the sooner we get open, the sooner we can start serving the market," Pittman said.

But he said the company still is committed to the Trexlertown deal and will open next spring -- provided Jaindl records the plan and construction can begin in the coming weeks.

"We expect to close next week," he said.

Jaindl assured that, despite the setback, the Movie Tavern and commercial center would still be built.

"This will all happen," he said. "We'll be closing at the earliest date that Movie Tavern is ready to close."

awagaman@mcall.com

610-820-6764

MOVIE TAVERN

--Headquarters: Dallas

--Location: Hamilton Boulevard, Trexlertown section of Lower Macungie Township, next to Wal-Mart Supercenter

--Tentative opening: spring 2018

--Originally announced opening: late 2016

--Food and beverage: Casual dining menu, full bar with wine, beer and cocktails

--Theater: 11 screens, state-of-the-art sound, digital projection and 3D capability

--Amenities: Reserved stadium seating, call button service in all theaters

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