The owners of Washington City Paper announced today that they have sold the paper to Creative Loafing, an Atlanta-based Tampa-based chain of four alternative weeklies. Also part of the deal is the Chicago Reader, with which the City Paper has shared partial ownership since 1982 and full ownership since 1988.

The sale was announced to staff in a meeting at the City Paper offices shortly after noon today. Creative Loafing CEO Ben Eason spoke and answered questions about the sale and the paper’s future.

The other four Creative Loafing properties, in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Tampa, Fla., and Sarasota, Fla., are all dubbed “Creative Loafing,” but Eason said there are no plans to change the name of City Paper.

“There’a real strong sense of loss and a lot of optimism,” said City Paper publisher Amy Austin, who will remain in her post under the new ownership, along with editor Erik Wemple.

Tom Yoder, representing the Chicago-based former owners of City Paper, vouched for Eason as a steward of the paper. “I’ve been convinced they’re straight shooters. They’re not full of themselves,” he said at the meeting. “They have a plan for how papers like ours can prosper into the future.” His group will retain ownership of the Adams Morgan building housing the City Paper offices.

Eason told staffers that he’s not interested in meddling with editorial affairs and cited his Creative Loafing’s “very similar values” to City Paper.

“I don’t have an editorial agenda, except I like to mix it up,” he said. “I like a fight.”

Wemple later indicated to editorial staff that the editorial budget is likely to be cut in the coming months to bring City Paper‘s editorial expenses in line with other alternative weeklies, but he indicated that similar cuts would likely have come under the old ownership.

“I think that what we have here is a new ownership that is really looking out for the long-term health of our newspaper,” Wemple said.

Eason, along with his sisters, has owned a majority stake in the company since 2000; his parents, Debby and Chick Eason, founded the Atlanta Creative Loafing in 1972, one year after the Chicago Reader‘s founding.

As part of the sale, Eason said, certain financial, technology, and production operations will be shifted to Creative Loafing offices in Atlanta and Tampa. Eason said some of the “displaced” City Paper employees may be able to relocate.

“There’s plenty of work to be done. We just gotta figure it all out,” he said.

UPDATE, 7/25, 1:47 P.M.: So I fucked up. Creative Loafing’s corporate base is in Tampa, not Atlanta, though their flagship paper and shared production facilities are in the ATL. After a fuckup like that, let me pull a Kent Brockman here: I, for one, welcome our new Sun Belt overlords…