Racetrack owner: Contract dispute between him, brewfest producer


POWNAL — The owner of the former Green Mountain Racetrack says he is in a contract dispute with the producer of last month's brewfest, who has claimed event staff are still owed money.

Stephen Soler, manager for the company that owns the Route 7 site and organizer of the Green Mountain Brewfest, declined further comment in an interview on Wednesday. He said he can't speak on matters in which litigation is involved.

Soler did confirm there's a contract dispute between Southern Vermont Beer Festivals LLC — the entity he formed to hold brewfests at the site — and Derek Signore, whom he hired to produce the May 21 event.

Signore said that he and a dozen people he picked to work at the event were never paid, and have filed complaints with the state Department of Labor. Signore this week supplied the Banner with a copy of a signed contract between him and Soler, as well as emails between him, Soler and DOL staff. Signore also said he intends to seek legal action against Soler.

In response to an inquiry, Stephen Monohan, director of DOL's Workers' Compensation & Safety division, wrote in an email on Wednesday that he is unable to comment on open investigations.

The services agreement contract Signore sent the Banner states he was hired in March as an independent contractor. It doesn't mention any of the 12 people whom in emails to DOL he identifies as staff seeking payment.

"All personnel were working for Stephen and were in his original budget under Operations Staff sent in March," Signore wrote in an email on Wednesday.

Emails between Signore and DLC show he had requested that Soler reimburse a dozen people varying amounts. Signore requested that several people who were volunteers be reimbursed $50 for gas and liquor control certification. A $688.15 request included a $388.15 reimbursement for ice. The largest, $1,775, was for the vendor coordinator. Signore said he has not been paid some $7,000 and a 20 percent share of the profits outlined in the contract.

Soler had written to Signore on June 8 that he was "waiting for reimbursements from the various distributors" and that "until we get those funds we will withhold paying any amounts due."

A concert headlined by ZZ Top that was scheduled for last August was cancelled 10 days before the event, reportedly because of a disagreement over a railroad crossing at the site's main entrance. Despite the disagreement among organizers, they were able to successfully hold an event at a property that has largely sat vacant since it closed in 1992.

But one hurdle brewfest organizers did face this year was getting a permit to serve beer.

Gary Kessler, deputy commissioner for the state Department of Liquor Control, said the event was initially advertised as having unlimited beer pours.

"That was the issue that prevented them from getting the license," he said. "We are not going to grant a license where you can drink as much as you please. For some people that might be too much."

Kessler continued, "We were told the advertising would change to reflect that. Some of it changed, some of it didn't. We continued to let them know it had to change so the event could take place."

As a result, the license was granted "closer to the event than we would have preferred," said Kessler.

Signore said he had questioned the state's recommendation that the festival use a ticketing system to limit how much participants could drink. He said they worked one-on-one with DLC staff, as well as state Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal/Woodford, to resolve the issue.

Signore said he also questioned how another Vermont brewfest that advertised unlimited beer was held the same day and able to operate.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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