Business · Fresno · Highlight

Sequoia Brewing heads to court to halt Tower Theatre sale

The sale of Fresno’s Tower Theatre to Adventure Church will be contested in court. 

The Tower District Marketing Committee sent out a statement Friday announcing that Sequoia Brewing Company – one of the tenants of the Tower Theatre – is taking legal action to prevent the sale. 

Sequoia Brewing claims that its right of first refusal to purchase the building was not granted when Tower Theatre owner Laurence Abbate struck a deal with Adventure Church for the sale. 

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and generosity from our community,” said Jeremy Smit, co-owner of Sequoia Brewing, in a statement. 

“We never expected to be in this situation, but are ready to defend our legal rights and the character and zoning of the Tower District. The support of the community has reinforced our decision to go forward with our claim with confidence in an outcome that serves everyone’s best interest.” 

Tyler Mackey, the Executive Director of the Tower District Marketing Committee, and Annalisa Perea, a Fresno City Council candidate for District, organized a fundraiser on GoFundMe to help pay for Sequoia Brewing’s legal fees. 

The GoFundMe fundraiser raised about $24,000 by Friday afternoon, just one day after it was started. 

“The owners of these businesses never wanted to see legal action, and when they were already up against so much due to the impacts of COVID, but that’s where they are,” Mackey said. “In the last day we’ve seen over 250 people step up to donate over $20,000 of our $50,000 goal through the GoFundMe legal fund we have set up to aid our businesses. 

“The community is clearly ready to support their efforts by giving generously to help cover some of the unexpected legal fees that they have and will incur as a result of the property owners’ refusal to recognize their contractual rights and the rights of the community to have a say in its zoning and future.” 

This litigation comes as the sale to Adventure Church is going through escrow. Church pastor Anthony Flores told The Sun a couple weeks ago that the process is nearly complete. Flores declined to comment for this story. 

Despite the pending sale, the City of Fresno has explored possible legal action it can take to stop the sale from going through. Mayor Jerry Dyer offered Adventure Church an alternative: Lease the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown from the city. 

However, Adventure Church was not interested in the proposal to leave the Tower Theatre behind. 

The Painted Table – another Tower Theatre tenant – also stepped into the game a few weeks ago with an offer for the building. If the sale falls through with Adventure Church, the Painted Table will presumably maintain interest in purchasing the property. 

“We fully support Sequoia Brewing Company in their effort to have their contract upheld,” said Jeromie Garza-Hansen, co-owner of The Painted Table. “It’s a shame to see either of our businesses have to go through any of this, but we stand firm in our commitment to finding a fair solution.” 

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.