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As One Clovis Brewer Pulls Back, Another Fills the Space

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Owners of Burning Sun Brewing Co., Dustin Hail (left) and Matt Denson (Special to GV Wire.)
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A Clovis brewing duo secured their first “pub”lic-facing storefront as another beermaker decides to operate only at its original location.

Burning Sun Brewing Co. will open their taproom at the former Tactical Ops Brewing Co. location in Clovis after the beginning of the year, said Dustin Hail, co-owner.

Hail and his partner, Matt Denson have been distributing their beers to local restaurants in the Central Valley for almost two years. But when the opportunity arose to take over the location, they jumped at the chance.

“We just got to the point where we were kind of exceeding our capacity at our current place,” Hail said. “And the opportunity came up that we heard that (Tactical Ops) was looking to downsize.”

Burning Sun Brewing Co. will take over the former Tactical Ops Brewing Co. taproom at 1131 Railroad Ave. Tac Ops will keep its original space. (GV Wire/Map)

Focus Is to Bring the ‘Outdoors In’

Hail and Denson have already begun making the taproom their own. Taking over a space previously built out for a brewery makes things easier, Hail said.

The new location will allow them to triple their current production. They purchased some of Tactical Ops’ old canning lines and also brought in new brewing equipment.

They named the brewery with the Central Valley’s heat in mind.

“When it’s hot, you think cold beer, so we just want a friendly, warm, fun atmosphere where it’s bright and bring, you know, bring the outdoors in.”

They are putting up TVs and hope to have live music. Hail said he’d like to be able to bring in food trucks to the location near Barstow and Clovis avenues.

Before Burning Sun, Hail and Denson started with a homebrew kit out of Denson’s garage. The two became friends in high school and, later on, their love of beer led to a business venture.

Hail still works as a firefighter and Denson has been a full-time brewer for the past few years, even brewing for Tactical Ops.

The duo formed Burning Sun in early 2022, occupying a warehouse in Clovis. Their beer can be found at restaurants such as House of Juju and Colton’s Social House in Clovis, Spokeasy in Fresno, and a number of other restaurants and breweries in Fresno, Tulare, Madera, and San Luis Obispo counties.

They produce several different IPAs and lagers.

“Some of the values that we strive to obtain is one, quality,” said Hail. “And we want to make sure we are producing the highest-quality and finest ingredients, not compromising any of the taste, you know, just for the purpose of selling it.”

They also focus on sustainability. With a little heating, leftover beer mash makes for great cattle feed, Hail said.

“When we empty out that grain, it’s still got a lot of that sugar left on it, so the cows, they love it,” Hail said.

A bartender at Tactical Ops pours a beer before the company closed its location at Railroad Avenue in Clovis. (GV Wire/Edward Smith)

Website Lawsuit, Increased Costs Caused Planned Retreat for Tactical Ops

Tactical Ops co-owner Justin Campagne said increased labor, ingredient, and insurance costs led to the decision to shrink operations to only their original location at 2985 N. Burl Ave.

It also doesn’t help that the company currently faces a lawsuit from a blind resident in San Bernadino. The brewery received a complaint from Pacific Trial Attorneys saying their client couldn’t adequately access their website. The letter demanded payment, but rather than pay the money as many other breweries have, they decided to go to court.

Campagne, an attorney himself, is representing Tactical Ops.

“The whole thing is geared to just be a burr in the saddle and then they make some sort of ridiculous demand for settlement payment which is typically less than fighting about it,” Campagne said. “So, your average guy who, you know, doesn’t have an attorney involved will, for the most part, just pay the extortion and be done with it.”

A Google search shows plaintiff Luis Licea suing multiple breweries as well as Rugs.com, Tactile Systems Technology Inc., Sensus Healthcare Inc., to name a few. Calls made to Pacific Trial Attorneys, Licea’s attorneys, were not returned.

While Campagne is a lawyer and handling the suit, they still have to face litigation costs. Co-owner of Tactical Ops Brandon Broussard has his own visual impairment, Campagne said, so they’ve made sure their website is compliant.

Federal law limits the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to websites. For the most part, it applies to physical locations, unless a website directs someone to a physical location, Campagne said.

But the lawsuit makes clear the amount is less than $75,000, which keeps the suit out of federal court and limited to the state court.

“The federal court has made pretty short shrift with this kind of crap, you’re much more likely to get a lawsuit thrown out early on,” Campagne said.

The lawsuit is made under Unruh, which is a civil rights violation. Plaintiffs would have to prove that the business intentionally discriminated against the classification of disability.

Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno, left) presents a certificate of recognition to, from right to left, Justin Campagne, Elizabeth Campagne, Tisha Wagenhals-Broussard, and Brandon Broussard.

Palmdale Brewery Reached Out to Campagne for Its Lawsuit

Another brewery, in Palmdale, received a legal complaint from the same individual. They wanted to hire Campagne as their lawyer, but he told them considering travel costs, it didn’t make financial sense for him to do it. He sent over case law he had researched.

The case for Tactical Ops is scheduled for Aug. 12, 2024. Campagne said about 95% of these types of cases are settled out of court. A loss for Tactical Ops would mean having to pay plaintiff’s attorneys fees.

“I’d be very surprised if anybody has taken this stuff to trial, because it’s just not cost justified,” Campagne said. “It’s easier to just pay off the extortion.”

Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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