Sunday, July 21, 2024

‘You need to get out of the building tonight’: Local brewery evacuates after threatening calls

After filing a lawsuit last week against a former employee for product tampering, Edward Teach Brewery had to close early over the weekend due to threats called in, which has prompted a WPD investigation. (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — Over the weekend, two threatening calls were made to a local brewery that has been enveloped in controversy in the new year. 

READ MORE: Edward Teach files suit against former employee, now Flying Machine manager, for product tampering

A 911 call obtained by Port City Daily indicates someone from Edward Teach Brewery called emergency personnel at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27, in what was believed to be a bomb threat.

“So my coworker received a call, and it says that you need to get out of the building tonight because it’s not going to be good for anybody,” the male caller told the 911 operator.

He confirmed the call came in twice from the same number, the second time the person noted: “Seriously, you need to be out of the building.”

The operator asked if a bomb was explicitly stated, to which the caller indicated no. He clarified the threat was specific toward clearing the premises only.

“I didn’t know what else to call it,” he said.

A coworker had screenshot the phone number, but the caller confirmed with the operator neither knew who it belonged to or who sent the ominous warning. According to Edward Teach’s attorney Thomas Varnum of Brooks Pierce, the brewery has provided all the information to local authorities.

The Wilmington Police Department filed a police report on the threatening calls and the situation is currently under investigation.

“To our knowledge, the caller has not yet been identified,” Varnum said. “Law enforcement has advised that it is safe to re-open, and the brewery will be open this week and this weekend.”

During the 911 call, the operator asked for people in the building to refrain from turning on or off all electrical devices and evacuate.

“Leave the area immediately and take the phone with you when you leave,” she said, indicating officers would arrive soon.

Background voices made it apparent patrons were shuffling out of the 604 North Fourth St. location. The caller seemed to be thanking them for understanding upon their exit.

“Shows you the caliber of people we are dealing with,” he said while on the phone with the 911 operator.

A choir of voices have been outspoken against the brewery in the last few weeks after a Dec. 29, 2023 post went viral from local musician Madonna Nash’s Facebook page. It claimed Edward Teach owner Gary Sholar engaged in threatening, inappropriate behavior against her daughter, also a local musician, and her daughter’s friend. The incident took place during her daughter’s performance at the venue on Nov. 16; Nash wasn’t at the show. 

She described Sholar as “visibly drunk off his ass, erratic, aggressive and terrorizing”; said he “touched inappropriately, disrespected, and terrorized a 20 year woman who was hired by and working for his establishment, making for a toxic and hostile work environment”; was “throwing chairs hitting his own patrons”; and was “drinking BEHIND the bar! Totally illegal!” 

The brewery and Sholar have denied these claims in a response posted to ET’s business Facebook page. Sholar accused the singer’s friend of starting the altercation and admitted to engaging in a verbal exchange with her.

“The heated confrontation occurred only between the singer’s friend and the brewery’s owner, who each exchanged harsh words and expletives with each other; the singer was not involved in the exchange,” the brewery’s Facebook post stated.

Sholar admitted he was drinking the day of the encounter but maintained he was not “appreciably impaired,” according to a StarNews interview. He also said he initiated a separation between himself and the friend so the dispute didn’t escalate.

Since Nash’s post, more than a dozen local businesses — including Blind Elephant, Barbary Coast, Jimmy’s, Lowes Foods, and Satellite — stopped ordering the brewery’s products. 

Also in the aftermath, ET products were tampered with at two area Harris Teeter stores. Someone placed a QR code embedded with the phrase ‘SCAN ME’ on the cans around Jan. 2, 2024. The code led to a Facebook page named “The Edward Teach owner (Gary Sholar) is a terrible person” and provided a hyperlink to Nash’s post. 

The situation escalated further last week when ET dropped a civil suit against Erik Peterson for product tampering and defamation. According to the complaint, Peterson was a former employer of Edward Teach from 2017 to 2022; he currently works for Flying Machine Brewing Company as an operations manager and has not responded to PCD’s request for an interview.

One day after the suit was filed, an anonymous Facebook account called “Jeff Jeffington” posted a video showing a partial interaction among Sholar, the artist and friend in question. The anonymous account holder has not responded to PCD’s request for an interview. 

Though the video doesn’t have a timestamp, the arguments taking place match statements made from both sides regarding that night. 

In the 11-second footage, Sholar appears to be drinking and tapping his beer glass on the bar top while speaking with the performer. Though Sholar claimed in the ET Facebook post the performer was not part of the exchange, in the video he appears to look at her in close distance, at one point saying: “This is my place. You’re done with it. You’re in my seating.” 

The video then shows the performer and her friend, who was wearing a red “TEACH” sweater, walking away. The friend’s attire matches the description provided in an affidavit volunteered by witness Christine Sprow. In corroboration with Sholar’s testimony, Sprow claimed the incident was “grossly exaggerated” by Nash.

“At no time did I witness Gary Sholar approach anyone in an aggressive manner, rather he made multiple attempts to distance himself from the female,” Sprow wrote.

The video shows Sholar following the young ladies, and off frame a man that sounds like him yells, “‘Get out, get out! You’re a f**king entitled bitch'” before the video cuts off abruptly.

Chairs can be heard scraping the floor, along with a thud. In its posted account on Facebook, ET stated Sholar put a chair between himself and the singer’s friend, though added the chair wasn’t thrown as Nash’s post suggested; EB management said it fell over. The video doesn’t show the chair incident, nor does it indicate who started the exchange of words. 

Both accounts of the evening confirm the fallout began when Sholar attempted to sing into the mic with the performer during her show that evening. Sholar said he tapped the musician on the shoulder beforehand and thought she nodded in agreement. 

“At that time, the singer did not display any sign of being upset or distressed, nor did she react defensively or inappropriately,” ET’s Facebook stated. 

Alternatively, Nash alleged Sholar drunkenly stumbled into the singer, grabbed her, and knocked her off balance during her performance. She said the singer’s friend tried to politely approach Sholar to ask him to leave the performance area, to which the owner responded in anger, making homophobic remarks and yelling “this is my place!”

The friend is seen in the video between the singer and bar owner, but doesn’t appear to speak — only points to Sholar toward the end. The performer, however, raises her hand at one point, stating “no” to Sholar, before walking away.

PCD asked ET’s attorney, Varnum, about any perceived contradictions per the brewery’s former statements or if it had a response to the video. It has been viewed now 33,000 times, with more than 600 comments.

“We have seen the video snippet that was posted on Facebook,” Varnum wrote to PCD on behalf of ETB. “As we have stated from the beginning, harsh words were exchanged in the heat of the moment after an unruly customer instigated a confrontation [with] the owner on November 16 and was told to leave as a result. The video fragment corroborates just that.”

A video of the full exchange has not been made available anywhere yet. ET management admitted reviewing its own footage of the incident the day after the argument and talked to staff about what unfolded, but said it decided “no further action” was needed. According to the brewery team, the system recorded over the footage within a few weeks of Nov. 16. 

Varnum told PCD last week the brewery worked with Ted Glackin of Wilmington-based Mr. Phix — which provides emergency data recovery services — to attempt to regain the security footage.

“Mr. Glackin also sent the DVR’s hard drive to another forensic lab called 300 Data Recover, recommended by Mr. Glackin,” Varnum said. “Both confirmed that the footage had been overwritten and was no longer available.”

Varnum admitted the team doesn’t know who posted or recorded the 11-second video, since it’s been done anonymously.

“We also can’t confirm whether it has been altered in any way and whether it is the totality of the video that exists,” he added. “But we’re of course curious to know who posted it, and we’re hopeful there’s more video of the entire incident between Gary Sholar and the performer’s friend than what’s been shared in this selective clip.”

Nash, her daughter and daughter’s friend have yet to come forward with a comment, despite numerous contacts by PCD.

As of press, Varnum had no updates on other pending litigation.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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