Montana’s, Hoffmann close two-day trial
July 30, 2014
EAGLE — After a two-day legal battle that cost six figures, an Avon restaurant will remain open for the immediate future.
The Hoffmann commercial real estate group sued Montana's, saying the restaurant's owners violated their lease by damaging Hoffmann's reputation. That damage was done when Montana's displayed a marijuana edibles vending machine for a private party.
Montana's owners Thomas Beaver and Andrea Burrows say they didn't damage anyone's reputation or anything else.
Final briefs from both sides are due in October, and District Court Judge Fred Gannett will rule after that.
In the meantime, it's business as usual for Montana's — 9 a.m. until 2 a.m., seven days a week.
If Montana's wins the case, Beaver and Burrows have eight years remaining on their lease.
Montana's was in its Benchmark Plaza space before the Hoffmann group bought the building. Beaver said it has been a "challenge" to deal with their new landlord.
"I knew Benchmark was going to do whatever they could to get us out of this lease," Beaver said during Tuesday's testimony.
Tracy Ashmore, Montana's attorney, says Hoffmann's lawsuit over the lease is the latest in a litany of harassment dating back a year.
The Hoffmanns, Chicago-based real estate developers and part-time Eagle County residents, bought and are renovating much of the commercial real estate in the older part of Avon, including the Benchmark Plaza, where Montana's is located.
THE SOURCE OF THE DISPUTE
The vending machine, a Zazzz machine, is manufactured by American Green, a publicly traded company based in Nevada. American Green COO Stephen Shearin paid $10,000 to host a private function at Montana's April 11 and 12 for stockholders and potential investors. At Montana's, the machine contained digestive aids and energy drinks, Shearin said.
The event attracted media and social media attention, and that was enough to damage the Hoffmann's reputation and violate Montana's lease, said attorney Jim Berdelle, Hoffmann's attorney for this case.
When Jonathan White, president of Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate, saw the newscasts, the machine and the product inside, he determined Montana's had violated the lease.
"This is not the sort of image we want to portray," White said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.