UNION, NJ – In a strongly worded letter to the owner of the Empire Cinema Theatre, Union’s mayor said the “dilapidated” theatre is an eyesore and a blight to Union Center.

Mayor Michele Delisfort requested Empire Cinema “exercise power and authority as the franchiser of the movie theatre over the franchisee/property owner to bring their property up to safe and aesthetic standards.”

The letter outlined recent Fire, Health and Building Department violations and summonses, including non-working fire alarms, a failure to maintain in good working order all means of egress devices and safeguards, exposed pipes and a hole in the ceiling, two summonses for rodent infestation, and not supplying adequate heat in the building.

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“It is extremely disappointing to the Township to have such an eyesore and unsafe theatre,” read the letter in part, “in fact, we had to shut them down temporarily just this past Wednesday because the Fire Department found that the fire alarm system was not working.”

“We certainly hope that this letter compels this franchisor to take action and motivate the theatre owner/franchisee to abate all violations and bring the theatre up to township standards,” said Mayor Delisfort in an email to TAPinto Union.

In response to a request for comment, Peter Kafash of Empire Cinaplex said he was advised about the [fire alarm] issue last Wednesday.  “Even though I was out of the country, we took care of the matter urgently as public safety is our number one concern.”

The letter to Empire Cinema indicates that the Township Administration offices have fielded “constant complaints from patrons of the theatre… including rain pouring in front of the movie screen while they are watching a movie that they paid to see.”

The letter states that the Township has recently completed a $2 million streetscape renovation in Union Center with road repaving, sidewalk renovations, and “much more in the way of capital investments to revitalize our downtown”.

“As you can image an eyesore such as this theatre is a blight on our downtown and we will no longer tolerate this,” concluded the letter. 

In his email response, Kafash added, “starting Friday, Feb. 8, our ticket price will be all day every day at $3.50 and all day Tuesday at $2.00 with free popcorn on Wednesday.”

“The Township Committee has made considerable infrastructure investments into Union Center and the Union Theatre is a blight on our downtown and all health, safety, and building violations must be abated immediately,” said the township’s Assistant Business Administrator Tammie Baldwin.

The theatre owner is due in court on Thursday, Jan. 31, to answer the summonses.