PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Tenants at Pines Mall moved out their inventory Friday after the mall’s owner, Judy Vu, threatened to lock the doors on Monday.
This is the latest issue to unfold for the mall after nearly foreclosing in 2019 when the mall’s owner didn’t pay the bills.
The Pines Mall’s number has been disconnected and the tenants say the decision to close was abrupt.
“What you have here really is an issue of the landlord refusing to take care of their facility,” said Saracen Cinema 8’s attorney, Veronica Swanigan.
The movie theater is attached to the shopping center. Swanigan says the Vu has neglected the facility for too long and her inaction has caused the business to decrease.
“Between the ceiling possibly falling in on you and the floor coming up underneath your feet, you can’t walk through this building and feel safe. That’s despicable,” Swanigan said.
The movie theater is one of a handful of shops still left at the mall. Now, they are all forced to close Monday.
“I really don’t have words to describe how disappointing it is,” said Okorie Ezieme, co-owner of Saracen Cinema 8.
Judy Vu gave tenants a letter, reading “Due to the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19. The Pines Mall has decided to shut down all businesses.”
The letter went on to explain that all personal items on the premises need to be removed.
Vu told our team that she plans on keeping the mall closed indefinitely.
When pressed why, Vu said, “Nobody paid me at all for a full year.”
The other owner of Saracen Cinema 8 says the letter is a “cop-out” and disappointing for every business owner inside the mall.
“It’s not about COVID– It’s just a result of years of bad management,” said Steven B. Mayes, Jr., co-owner Saracen Cinema 8.
Mayes says when they bought the cinema last year, they spent thousands renovating the space. He says he fears his time and money will be wasted as Vu plans to turn the lights off for good.
Swanigan says they plan to pursue legal action against Vu in the next few weeks.
Mayor Shirley Washington sent the following statement regarding the closure of Pines Mall:
The Pines Mall is an iconic and valuable complex within Pine Bluff. We are saddened by its closure. However, we will remain positive. This gives us the opportunity to reimagine the type of multi-use development this space could become. Moving forward, our goal is to attract investors who will believe in this property and partner with us as we move our city forward.