TAMPA, Florida -- The Republican National Convention is a week away and the battling has already begun. Some RNC-related events featuring high-profile people could be cancelled because of a long running dispute between the Channelside Cinemas and the landlord of the entire shopping center.
The theater is in bankruptcy, and thought by booking RNC events it could bring in some much needed cash. But the landlord filed a lawsuit in federal court saying the cinema's lease doesn't allow for such events.
"Everybody knows this is our catch-up act. This is the act that is going to bring in the money to help us get out of bankruptcy and start with a clean slate, and obviously that is their motive. They don't want us to stay and they obviously have somebody else they'd like to bring in here that is connected to somebody," said Channelside Cinemas owner Howard Edleman, who said he was floored by the lawsuit.
Matt Pezzullo booked the events at the cinema, where famous faces like Chuck Norris and Rudy Giuliani are scheduled to appear. "We will get sued left and right if we don't do these events by companies and marketers," Pezzullo said, adding he worked more than a year to bring people to the venue.
Channelside Cinemas has a wine, beer, and liquor license, and rooms to accommodate events. Its attorney, Paul DeCailly, maintains the lease can't stop it from hosting RNC related functions.
"It has been conducting these events for five years or more and there is nothing in the lease that prohibits it from conducting the events, yesterday, today, tomorrow. I believe it is a complete shakedown, and it is about money," said DeCailly.
Money does appear to be at the heart of the matter. The attorney for the Cinemas says he was told the events could proceed if the theater paid the landlord a flat $100,000 fee.
We contacted the landlord's Holland Knight attorneys, but no one was available to comment on this story. They will meet in federal court Tuesday and a judge will decide.
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