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New Town theater closed, didn't get business license

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By Lee Einer

Nothing appears to have changed much at Las Vegas SERF Theatre since the New Mexico premiere of “No Country for Old Men” back in November. Even the sign remains unchanged, heralding the coming of an event now long over.

The SERF Theatre, which reopened briefly under the management of local entrepreneur Chris Lopez, once again stands idle.

Nancy Kersey, niece of Eddie Maloof, manages financial affairs for the SERF Theatre. The theater was built by Eddie Maloof’s father and the initials in SERF are the first letters of his four children’s names, Sarah, Eddie, Richard and Frida.

Kersey said Lopez has not had a lease on the theater since Oct. 15. The premiere of “No Country for Old Men,” the Coen brothers film shot largely in Las Vegas and in which the SERF Theatre appears, was offered to the community by nonprofit groups.

Those nonprofits, The Hispanic Education and Media Group and the local Casa de Cultura, contacted the Las Vegas Fire Department before the premiere to ensure the premises were safe for the public. As a result, it was discovered that Lopez had been operating the theater without a business license; fire inspections are required before a business license is issued, and no such fire inspection had been done.

A story in Lopez’s weekly newspaper, the Tri-County News-Times, contended in an edition more than a week ago that the Optic attacked Lopez in a previous story by stating that the theater wasn’t up to code. The News-Times story said the city, in fact, had let Lopez back in to operate it.

Las Vegas Police Chief Andrew Duran said that because a business license had not been applied for, nothing triggered the need for a Fire Department inspection.

The Optic has verified with the city that there is still no record of an application for a business license for the SERF Theatre.

Chris Lopez said last week he was still operating the SERF Theatre, but declined to comment further except through his attorney, Jesus Lopez. Jesus Lopez said that the SERF was temporarily closed, but that Chris Lopez is negotiating with Kersey at this point concerning the lease of the SERF.

Kersey flatly denied that any negotiations are taking place between her and Chris Lopez.

“I have been trying to get Chris Lopez to return my calls.” Kersey said. “He owes my uncle three months rent on the building where he is operating the newspaper. I do not know who Chris’ attorney is, and I certainly would not negotiate with anyone who does not pay rent on time.”

Kersey said she is hopeful that the theater can be reopened under different management.

“I would love to see the SERF operating again for the enjoyment of the community,” she said.