Judge sets date for Breckenridge Brewery hearing
Summit Daily News
Operations have remained relatively normal at Breckenridge Brewery & Pub in recent months, as beers continue to pour for thirsty locals and guests who’ve finished a day recreating in Colorado’s High Country.
But under the guise of business as usual, lawyers are preparing to fight for the fate of the brewpub. At a status hearing earlier this week, District Judge Karen Romeo set the hearing for Sept. 30, after which it will be up to the courts to decide whether the brewery will get to stay.
The conflict between the brewery and property owner, Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate, began to heat up in May after an apparent fallout between the two parties while negotiating a new lease agreement. In short, the brewery — bought by Anheuser-Busch in 2015 — maintains that the parties reached an agreement on a new lease in February that would keep the brewery on-site for the next five years. Property owners disagree.
Breckenridge Brewery filed a lawsuit on the matter in late May, hoping the courts would reach a judgment holding the landlord to the supposed “binding and enforceable” lease agreement, along with seeking damages for breach of contract and fraud — asserting the property owners were negotiating in bad faith all the way back to late last year.
As part of the lawsuit, the brewery included a February email from Steven Squire, a managing partner at Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate, which they believe shows an official agreement between the parties.
“Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate, L.P. accepts the terms and conditions as set forth in the AB LOI (letter of intent) of November 15, 2018 as revised by our agreement as set forth in your email of Thursday Feb. 21 2019,” wrote Squire. He continued to thank the brewery for their efforts in negotiating the matter, and said he looked forward to receiving the full lease for review and execution in the coming weeks.
The brewery feels the email created an enforceable lease, and they feel they should be able to stay. But the real estate company responded to the suit in late June, denying that any binding document was in place and asking the court to drop the suit.
Additionally, Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate filed its own complaint seeking damages, asserting “as a direct and proximate cause of (Breckenridge Brewery’s) anticipatory breaches, landlord has been and will be damaged in an amount to be proven in court.”
On Monday, Judge Romeo scheduled the hearing to determine if there is an enforceable lease and who gets to stay in the building. Romeo said that while the hearing would adjudicate the actual property issue, other complaints logged in each party’s respective lawsuits like damages would be dealt with separately. Romeo also gave the parties a chance to settle the issue out of court in mediation up until Sept. 25.
In a letter penned by Breckenridge Brewery president Todd Usry and head brewer Jimmy Walker on the brewery’s website earlier this month, the two lamented the legal battle and asked community members to stand beside them through the proceedings, citing deep roots in the community and their history of supporting local nonprofits in the county.
“It’s a grave understatement to say we are disappointed by the landlord’s repeated refusal to honor our agreement,” the letter reads. “Our commitment to our employees and the community is unshaken. We’ve been here for nearly 30 years and want to be here for 300 more, ideally in the same four walls where it all began.”
The brewery also recently started a social media campaign under the hashtag #KeepBreckInBreck, asking people to share their stories of the brewpub over the past 29 years.
Richard Squire — Steven’s brother, an original founder of the brewery and managing general partner with Breckenridge Brewery Real Estate — slammed the brewery’s leadership team for what he called slipping quality in service and beer over recent years. He continued to say that if the court swings in their direction, he intends to bring a new brewery to the location.
“This is a case of Anheuser-Busch using tons of money to push little people around,” Richard said during a phone call with the Summit Daily on Thursday. “We don’t know which way this is going, but we don’t think they have a lease, and they’re just busting our corporate balls so to speak. … We’re tired of the place, and tired of Anheuser running it down. We want the place back, and if we get the chance, that’s exactly what we’re going to do, refresh it. Take it back to what it originally was, a fun place for locals.”
Richard continued to say that with few exceptions he intends to offer jobs to the current employees if the brewery is forced to leave.
The Sept. 30 hearing is expected to take about a day but could potentially spill over to Oct. 1.