Craft Beer Cellar resorts to crowdfunding for help in legal battles

The US franchisor based in Massachusetts had previously tried to sue Glassdoor over negative reviews, but said crowdsourced funds will “absolutely not” go towards costs for that lawsuit.

Craft Beer Cellar alleged that Glassdoor had violated a number of federal and state laws concerning negative reviews of the beer retailer.

The company is asking the public for $250,000 to help with “past, present and future legal demands” on its GoFundMe page.

The company’s co-founders Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker say in their plea for financial help: “We have to live with the false negative rhetoric out there, that challenges our flawless reputation, impeccable work ethic and extraordinary commitment to the products and industry we love so much.

“We are honest, good people, who some may just not like, because we are female, because we are married, and therefore lesbian, and because we are true entrepreneurs.”

Legal Battles

This comes two months after its parent company, “Craft Beer Stellar, LLC,” had a lawsuit against employment website Glassdoor thrown out by a federal judge, and about one month after it filed a lawsuit against one of its franchises.

In the former lawsuit, Craft Beer Stellar argued that negative feedback about the company, left anonymously on Glassdoor’s website, violated the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as Massachusetts trade secrets statute and state Consumer Protection Act.

They had initially complained to Glassdoor that a post violated “community required” guidelines on naming company officials who aren’t the face of the company, and thus in the public eye.

Glassdoor removed the post, but allowed it to be reposted on the page once it conformed to guidelines, and declined Craft’s request to remove it again.

Craft then filed a suit, claiming that trade secrets had been published on the website and that this violated a number of federal and state laws.

Craft also argued that by reviewing and temporarily removing one post (at Craft’s request) until it was changed signified “an act of creating and developing the post’s content”, an allegation that, if found to be true, would leave them open to further legal scrutiny for “contractual breaches, torts, and other violations.”

The Massachusetts U.S. District Court dismissed Craft Beer Stellar’s lawsuit brought against Glassdoor.

After close inspection, the Massachusetts’ U.S. District Court rejected Craft’s arguments.

On 19 November, the parent company had also filed a suit against one of its franchises, Hoppy Days LLC, along with naming John Callinan, who ran the now closed franchise in Gardiner, Maine, as a defendant.

In the lawsuit, Craft Beer Stellar asserts suffering “irreparable harm to its business and reputation in the craft beer industry.” The claim extends to negative reviews resulting in lost sales and “prospective business,” seeking monetary and punitive damages, along with injunctive relief.

The company’s GoFundMe page doesn’t mention either of these lawsuits, although the “false negative rhetoric” against the company’s “flawless reputation” suggests that the funds will go towards the costs of these legal ventures.

However, Brewbound reports that Suzanne Schalow says the campaign was “absolutely not” born out of their lawsuit against Glassdoor.

Negative Reviews

Nine of the 11 reviews on Craft’s Glassdoor company profile are one star reviews, with one four and one five star review.

While Suzanne and Kate have claimed they have a “flawless reputation” and “impeccable work ethic”, negative reviews are focused around exorbitant costs and abrasive management styles experienced by franchise owners.

Nine out of 11 reviews only gave one star reviews to Craft Beer Cellars

One reviewer says “sales projections are off by 50% or more, and costs are off by that much too,” going on to say when giving creative input, “Suzanne will belittle you and call you names.”

Others cite Suzanne as problematic too. One says: “Brand management is a mess, mostly at the hands of Suzanne Schalow,” while another says: “Once she has your money, you are nothing to her.”

At time of writing, after four days of the GoFundMe going live, Craft Beer Cellar have raised $850 of their $250,000 goal through contributions by 16 people.

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