NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Edward Teach Brewery is facing litigation on two fronts after the company and its owner, Gary Sholar, filed a lawsuit against local musician Madonna Nash for a viral Facebook post they allege amounts to defamation. It comes less than a week after the brewery also filed a suit against a former employee.
Edward Teach claims Nash interfered with brewery business relationships and seeks more than $25,000 in damages. It also asks for removal of the post. The lawsuit states Nash engaged in “unlawful use of social media to defame and inflict lasting injury” on Edward Teach, in an attempt to cancel and tarnish its reputation.
It also calls Nash’s portrayal of events in her post “wildly inaccurate,” adding she was not present during the Nov. 16 incident. That’s the night a dispute occurred among Nash’s daughter, who was performing at the brewery, her daughter’s friend and ET owner Gary Sholar.
Nash claimed Sholar engaged in threatening and inappropriate behavior against the two women in a post that went viral six weeks after the incident. ETB listed 28 aspects of Nash’s post it alleges qualify as defamation, including the claim Sholar was visibly intoxicated and grabbed the performer; the allegation Sholar threw chairs and they hit patrons; that he drank behind the bar; and that he used slander and discriminated against a “young gay woman.”
The suit describes Nash’s post as “a call to arms” to encourage musicians not to play ETB’s taproom. More so, it takes umbrage with a “widespread campaign” to boycott the brewery that has ensued since. Multiple businesses began removing the product in the aftermath of the post.
The suit against Nash comes one week after ET also filed against a former employee for product tampering. The brewery is suing Erik Peterson, who worked for ET for five years before becoming operations manager at Flying Machine Brewing Company. A civil suit claims Peterson put QR codes on Edward Teach products at two local Harris Teeter grocery stores, which sent users to a Facebook page titled “The Edward Teach owner (Gary Sholar) is a terrible person” and hyperlinked to Nash’s post.
Sholar has denied allegations he behaved in an inappropriate, violent manner. He admitted to drinking but claims he was not “appreciably impaired.” He also has been adamant that the singer’s friend initiated the incident and admits to exchanging harsh language, although he claimed the singer was not involved in the dispute.
Wednesday’s filing against Nash includes sworn testimony from taproom manager Amy Cavasos and five affidavits supporting its allegations. These include two bartenders who worked the evening of the incident — Noah Powell and Logan Chaucer — as well as patrons Christine Sprow and Philip Kunzelman. Roughly 20 to 30 were in the taproom that night, the suit claims. Adam Young, ETB’s head brewer, also provided sworn testimony.
Their affidavits match Sholar’s claims the situation did not amount to threatening behavior. Kunzelman wrote that Sholar “more often than not” doesn’t drink in the taproom. In the affidavit he explained:
“I heard raised voices, but I did not see any physical interaction at all. I recall at least one chair was moved, but no chairs were thrown. The chairs at Ed Teach are quite heavy, and would be hard to throw. Had one of these chairs been thrown by Gary, I am sure I would have seen it.”
Powell said Sholar did not touch the performer.
“The friend who was there with [her] basically charged at Sholar aggressively,” he stated. “The woman was very animated and excited.”
Chaucer indicated the friend grabbed Sholar to push him away from the microphone and the performer.
Both sides have stated the altercations began on Nov. 16 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.
The suit notes Nash’s original post was altered shortly after going live, deleting accusations that Sholar touched the performer “around her hips.” Alternately, Nash indicated Sholar stumbled into the singer, grabbed her, and knocked her off balance during a performance and “violated her without consent.” She said the singer’s friend attempted to get Sholar to leave the performance area.
The lawsuit identified that Young watched the business’ security footage the following day. Management claimed in its own account of events posted to Facebook that it decided “no further action” was needed. Thus, the system recorded over the footage within a few weeks of Nov. 16 and could not be recovered; ET shows messages in the lawsuit where it attempted to retrieve the video with Wilmington-based Mr. Phix.
Though Nash has been reticent to speak with local media, she did have some interaction with brewery management, the suit shows. A Facebook messenger exchange between her and Cavasos occurred about an hour after Nash’s post went live. Cavasos requested Nash remove it.
“I’d love to have a civil conversation with you otherwise I will be taking this up with our attorney,” Cavasos wrote.
Nash responded: “Of course I’m open to a conversation. I’m going only off of the information told to me by my daughter, her friend and a few witnesses. I would hope that my daughter and her friend wouldn’t lie. And I tend to want to believe the commonalities between what witnesses and my daughter told me. I hope you can understand as a mother I was very troubled by what I was told. I’m available anytime. Thank you for reaching out to me. I truly do appreciate it. If anything it shows me that you at least care about what happened that night.”
The suit contains multiples texts between the two ladies. Nash at one point asks Cavasos: “Is any of it true?”
She responds: “I love this bar and Gary would give the shirt off his back to anyone. I’ve seen him do it countless times.”
The texts indicate Cavasos’ attempts to contact Nash in following weeks; the lawsuit criticizes Nash for continuing to post on social media while stopping communication with ETB.
It also claims other commenters’ posts equated to threats of violence against Sholar.
On Jan. 26 — after the tampering suit against Peterson was filed — an anonymous Facebook account posted a video showing an 11-second clip of the Nov. 16 altercation that, as of press, has garnered 41,000 views and 703 comments. The clip, though it doesn’t have a timestamp, appears to show Sholar directly speaking to the performer, telling her: “This is my place. You’re done with it. You’re in my seating.”
Sholar previously told StarNews the singer was not part of the exchange. He appears to follow the performer and her friend as they walk away.
Out of frame, a man who sounds like Sholar can be heard yelling: “Get out, get out! You’re a f**king entitled bitch!” The video ends abruptly.
Edward Teach lawyer Thomas Varnum told PCD earlier this week they haven’t been able to confirm if the video showing the full exchange exists.
“We also can’t confirm whether it has been altered in any way,” 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.”
The following day, Jan. 27, after the video went live, the brewery received two threatening calls causing an evacuation of the building. The caller from the 911 recording obtained by PCD claims two calls came in, the first stating: “You need to get out of the building tonight because it’s not going to be good for anybody.”
Another added: “Seriously, you need to be out of the building.”
Employees thought it was a bomb threat; however, the 911 call includes the operator asking if a bomb was explicitly stated, to which the caller indicated no. He clarified the threat was specific toward clearing the premises only.
PCD reached out to WPD to find out if the investigation has deemed it a bomb threat; Lt. Greg Willett said police could not provide comment on the ongoing investigation.
Also included in the lawsuit is a comment Nash made in the thread of her original viral post, stating: “I have a sneaking feeling I will be in need of an attorney.”
As of Wednesday, Varnum told PCD he does not know if Nash has an attorney. Nash did not return PCD’s request for response on the litigation.
“The brewery is in the business of making beer, not filing lawsuits,” Varnum released in a statement. “But after more than a month of attempting to reach out directly to Ms. Nash and asking her for a dialogue, all to no avail, there really wasn’t another option. The brewery cannot be expected to continue to suffer the widespread and ongoing attack on its business and the livelihoods of its dedicated employees. What’s said and shared on social media has real life impacts, perhaps especially when what’s said is untrue. For the brewery and its employees the effects of Ms. Nash’s defamatory post and the reactions it purposefully instigated have been enormous. Enough is enough.”
Below is the lawsuit Edward Teach filed Wednesday:
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