Water Company Ordered to Pay Ojai Playhouse Damages

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In 2014, the historic Ojai Playhouse movie theater suffered damage after a water main break caused a flood. Now, a judge has ordered the former water purveyor of the town to pay the establishment $2.7 million worth of damages.

Golden State Water Co. once managed the water system for Ojai. The company was ordered to pay brothers Khaled Al-Awar and Walid Al-Awar, the owners of the playhouse, almost $2 million for repairs made after the theater was severely damaged, which was ordered by Ventura County Superior Court Judge Vincent O’Neill on July 19, 2017.

An additional amount of $400,000 was ordered to be paid to the brothers as well to cover annoyance and discomfort damages. The remainder of the money the judge ordered to be paid was for lost profits. There will be another hearing to determine how much money Golden State Water will have to pay in attorney’s fees, according to John Howard, the attorney for the Al-Awars.

The decision is a victory for the Al-Awar brothers, who are residents of Ojai. The pair has been without their business since the flood damaged the playhouse and an adjoining restaurant, the Village Jester, in July 2014. Ojai Playhouse is located in the central part of the town and has long been a cultural landmark and beautiful structure. The damage done to the establishment has caused a great deal of collective resentment toward Golden State Water throughout the community.

Howard stated that the playhouse isn’t merely a movie theater but a place used by schools and churches and other organizations within the community for all type of events and is generally regarded as a building of historical importance.

The first repairs performed on the playhouse stalled in January 2015 due to a dispute between Golden State Water and its secondary insurance carrier. Khaled Al-Awar stated that the foundation and interior of the building were destroyed by the flood, which occurred over a weekend where there wasn’t anyone around to shut the water off. He reported that the repairs would take between six to eight months at the minimum. He also said that the damage was a complete catastrophe, resulting in literally millions of gallons of water flooding the theater.

The Al-Awars have run the playhouse for over 30 years. Khaled stated that the repairs could not be made until they actually have the money at hand. Golden State Water currently has two months to appeal the order by the judge. His attorney, Howard, believes that an appeal can happen but is unlikely.

Howard concluded that his clients hope there is no appeal because all they want to do is repair the Ojai Playhouse as soon as possible.

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