The Journal Gazette
Saturday, February 10, 2018 1:00 am

Complaints preceded theater's closure


When Amanda Parsons and a friend decided to see a movie a few weeks ago, she nearly slipped and fell on the ice.

And that was inside the building.

“I thought, 'This is ridiculous,'” Parsons, 19, said this week, saying the ice stretched from the parking area to the lobby.

But that was just one thing that led the Fort Wayne woman to take to her Facebook page and complain about what she called “disgusting” conditions at Apollo Coventry Cinemas in Aboite Township.

She observed odors and waste in the restroom, sticky seats and cup holders and food debris in screening rooms that, she said, were “freezing.”

Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health officials last week shut down the discount and second-run multiplex because of unsanitary conditions, including mouse droppings in the concessions area, dead insects and mold on some seats – and that shutdown is likely to continue, Dave Fiess, the department's acting spokesman, said Friday.

 “We have not heard anything from the owner all week,” he said. Before the theater can reopen, all violations must be corrected, Fiess said.

Allen County Building Department officials said they had not heard from the owner, listed on department records as JSMN-Coventry Cinema LLC in Paramus, New Jersey. That's despite a post-inspection letter the department sent there Feb. 1 telling owners the cinema “could be subject to condemnation proceedings if these issues are not addressed by Feb. 15.”

Attempts by The Journal Gazette to reach the owners were also unsuccessful.

Among the building problems cited, besides lack of heat in all but three theaters, were a leaking roof, missing and stained ceiling tiles, inoperable restroom plumbing and a nonfunctioning exit sign and no heat in all but three of the screening rooms.

A full report from the fire department was not immediately available.

A notice of violation was sent Feb. 5 by neighborhood code officials because of trash and debris in the parking lot, according to Mary Tyndall, city community development department spokeswoman. 

According to building department records, a complaint in 2015 reported malfunctions in the men's restroom, but that was corrected. Previous neighborhood code complaints concerned weeds and trash and also were reported to have been fixed.

Beginning in April 2016, the health department made eight inspections when violations were observed, online records show. Violations the health department considered critical were usually corrected immediately, the records show.

However, in 2017, several non-critical violations went uncorrected – including a buildup of “mold, food debris and slime” in food area sinks and a “black mold-like substance” on the inside of the ice machine. Inspectors also noted a strong odor in the men's restroom and visible daylight under the front exit door.

Local enforcement records show the theater has had more than 20 violation notices going back to 2011.

Mindy Waldron, health department administrator, said the shutdown was ordered after no progress was observed between Dec. 15 and Feb. 1.

The department, she said, does not issue fines or timetables for repairs in shutdown cases, unless an establishment asks for a reinspection and new or continuing violations are found.

Parsons' complaint came to the attention of health department officials pursuing the shutdown.

She said she “tried so hard” to stay for the movie but gave up.

“I just thought it was very disgusting. You expect with a $3 theater not for it to be as fancy, but this was awful,” she said, adding she and her friend asked for their money back, got it and left.

An attendant acted like it was no big deal, she said – “like it happened all the time.”

Her Facebook post, she added “got 2,000 shares really fast.”

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