Breckenridge Brewery takes lease dispute to court, pitting owner against the brewery’s original founders
BRECKENRIDGE — About to lose the building it’s called home for nearly 30 years, Breckenridge Brewery is taking its case to court with claims the landlord reneged on a contract to renew the brewpub’s lease.
Filed in Summit County Court, the lawsuit accuses the brewery’s landlord, a company called Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate, of accepting terms outlined for a new lease in a February email exchange that detailed important items such as rental rates and a time frame for the new lease, which would have kept Breckenridge Brewery at 600 S. Main St. for the next five years.
One of the people attached to Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate, Richard Squire, is an original founder of the brewery, and he vehemently disputes the lawsuit has merit. Rather, he frames the case as a beer giant’s attempt to ride roughshod over the little guy.
In the suit, the brewpub included an email from Richard Squire’s brother, Steven Squire, that’s dated Feb. 21 and says the property owners have accepted the terms and conditions outlined in a letter of intent from the brewery.
“I want to thank you for your efforts in negotiating this matter to a favorable conclusion for both parties,” he wrote in the email. “I look forward to receiving the full lease for our review and execution, which I have advised the LP should be received within the next three weeks.”
In the lawsuit, the brewery claims the email created “a binding and enforceable” agreement, and because of that, the brewery “did not search for a new location,” instead continuing to operate in the building as if it would be allowed to remain there for the next five years.
The brewery also said that if it cannot stay at 600 S. Main St., it would be impossible to find a new location before the existing lease expires June 30, according to the lawsuit. As a result, the suit levies that Breckenridge Brewery will suffer a loss of income and other irreparable damages to its reputation, business and operations well in excess of $100,000.
For relief, the brewery seeks a declaratory judgment from the court that its landlord entered a binding lease agreement per the terms described in the email exchange by saying the “landlord’s acceptance must be enforced to prevent injustice.” Should the brewery not be allowed to stay, it’s requesting the court award damages in an amount to be proven at trial.
Reached via email, an attorney for the brewery said they’re waiting for the landlord’s response to the complaint and don’t have anything to add at this time.
Reached over the phone Tuesday, Richard Squire did have more to say:
“Obviously, we think it’s groundless,” he said about the lawsuit. “This is a clear case of David and Goliath.”
Declining to get into details, he simply said he believes the timeless story will play out in Breckenridge the same way it did in the Bible.
His analogy is a reference to the 2015 sale of Breckenridge Brewery to Anheuser-Busch, or its parent company, AB-InBev.
Richard Squire doesn’t regret selling the brewery to the beer giant, which he couldn’t help but point out is a Belgian corporation, “but the building is a different story,” he said.
“That building belonged to, and I founded the brewery along with, six other locals up there,” he said. “This whole business today (over the lawsuit) is about our desire to return that brewery to the locals, to return the brewery to where its roots started.”
Asked if he and the other property owners plan to open another brewery in the same location, he said the building needs “a drastic refreshing” and said they hope to “reinvigorate and respirit the place.”
“It’s out of our hands,” he said about the case, adding that he expects Breckenridge Brewery “to vacate on the 30th of this month or have a damn good reason why they’re not.”
Caught in the crossfire of this dispute are the 60-plus employees who work at Breckenridge Brewery, many of whom have been with the company for a decade or longer.
While it’s no secret Anheuser-Busch owns Breckenridge Brewery, the head brewer who’s been there for 22 years told the Summit Daily News earlier this month that he hopes people will see how long he and his “family” of co-workers have been there, how they’ve shaped the business and its building into what they are today, and how Breckenridge Brewery has supported so many local philanthropic initiatives after the 2015 sale.