Monday, April 15, 2024

ALE charges brewery owner with criminal violations, also finds Edward Teach operated on expired permit

ETB is facing charges from the ALE after an investigation launched into the brewery, stemming from a viral Facebook post that went live around the New Year. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Edward Teach Brewery and its owner Gary Sholar have been under investigation by the Alcohol Law Enforcement agency since January, according to a new report obtained by Port City Daily. A warrant for multiple charges has been served by the agency and details of the investigation show the brewery was operating under an expired brewing permit.

READ MORE: Edward Teach files suit against Brunswick County woman for defamation from viral Facebook post

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

The latest round of news further complicates a situation now involving two lawsuits and two citizen-initiated warrants set in motion by a Facebook post, which also spurred the ALE’s involvement.

A Dec. 29, 2023 post went viral from local musician Madonna Nash’s Facebook page. It claimed Sholar engaged in threatening, inappropriate behavior against her daughter, Asia Daye Norris, also a local musician, and her daughter’s friend, Paige Grant. The incident took place during Norris’ performance at the venue on Nov. 16; Nash wasn’t at the show.

Nash 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!”

Sholar has denied the allegations, admitting to drinking in the establishment and using foul language in a heated exchange with Grant but not drinking behind the bar, nor throwing chairs. 

At the beginning of February, Sholar turned himself in on two citizen-initiated warrants, filed by Norris and Grant, and was let go on a $500 unsecured bond. Those warrants were signed off on by Magistrate Brian Watkins.

However, 10 days earlier on Jan. 23, ALE agent Jason Dzierzynski also swore out an arrest warrant, signed by Magistrate Jeffrey Ryan, including three charges for Sholar:

  • Disorderly conduct on licensed premise (NCGS 18B-1005 (A)(2))
  • Assault on a female and communicating threats (NCGS 18B-1005 (A)(3)
  • Failure to supervise conduct on licensed premise (NCGS 18B-1005(B)

He also found Sholar in violation of North Carolina Administrative Code, followed by state agencies and licensing boards, including the ABC Commission:

  • Intoxication by permittee prohibited (NCAC 15B .0209)
  • Disorderly conduct prohibited (14B NCAC 15B .0208)
  • Intoxicated persons (14B NCAC 15B .0204)

On Tuesday, Edward Teach Brewery’s attorney Thomas Varnum told PCD Sholar voluntarily appeared to accept the ALE warrant last week.

According to the agent’s notes on the ALE investigation, Dzierzynski informed Varnum on Jan. 17 that the brewery needed to stop producing beer due an expired license, canceled on Feb. 23, 2023. Varnum said the expired permit had nothing to do with the Nov. 16 allegations. 

“As soon as the issues affecting ETB’s brewing permit came to light during conversations with an ALE investigator, ETB cooperated fully with the ALE and suspended all production,” Varnum told PCD on Tuesday.

The attorney said ETB’s taproom remains open and the brewery can still sell and distribute its products because ETB’s retail and wholesale permits were not affected by the ALE action. However, the brewery has not manufactured new beer since the expired permit came to light. 

“ETB has taken swift action to address all issues affecting its permit,” Varnum wrote to PCD. “ETB expects the permit to be reinstated very soon, and the brewery will return to full operations again at that time.”

Edwin West III — Varnum’s partner at Brooks Pierce — is representing Sholar for the citizen-initiated warrants executed by Norris and Grant and said this about the latest charges:

“While we’re disappointed NC ALE decided to file charges in these circumstances, we’re not surprised by this development and appreciate that ALE has a job to do. We will continue to cooperate with ALE and look forward to the whole truth coming out. Meanwhile, Gary and ETB’s staff are grateful to the brewery’s many loyal supporters.”

Sholar wasn’t the only person the ALE looked into during its investigation. Agent Dzierzynski determined Edward Teach bar manager Amy Cavasos also committed criminal and regulatory violations; however, Cavasos does not face criminal charges.

The violations include:

  • Manufacture, sale, etc., forbidden except as expressly authorized; NCGS-18B-102
  • Brew with permits per conduct on a licensed premise (NCGS 18B-1005 (A)(1))
  • Failure to supervise per conduct on a licensed premise (NCGS 18B-1005(B))
  • In violation of cooperating with law enforcement officers 14B NCAC 15B .0210

ALE violations are handled by the Alcohol Beverage Commission. According to ABC spokesperson Jeff Strickland, the ABC follows a negotiated settlement process for alleged violations it receives from law enforcement partners. They are reviewed by ABC staff and negotiated with the permit holder; should a compromise fail to be reached, it moves to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

“Because this is a negotiated settlement process with back and forth between the business and commission staff, it can take some time between when the violation report is received and when a settlement is approved by the commission,” Strickland said. 

Administrative penalties for violations include a warning, fine, or permit suspension, depending on circumstances of the case. Strickland told PCD the commission has not yet taken administrative action regarding Edward Teach.

The background

According to Dzierzynski’s report, he first received an email from special agent in charge Reece Wilkerson on Jan. 2, regarding a complaint and social media post alleging multiple crimes and violations by Sholar. 

Two days later, Dzierzynski wrote in his investigation notes he spoke with Nash and conducted a search to find two unserved warrants with similar charges — assault on a female and communicating threats — from complainants Norris and Grant. The warrants were issued by Magistrate Watkins on Dec. 31.

The agent wrote he asked Nash about the unserved warrants; she told the agent her daughter was overwhelmed, traumatized, and torn on whether to seek criminal charges against Sholar. 

As Port City Daily previously reported, the Dec. 31 warrants were disposed of as “never to be served,” due to charging language, and reissued Jan. 6. Sholar turned himself in on those warrants Feb. 2.

CATCH UP: Edward Teach owner charged with 2 counts each of assault on female, communicating threats from citizen-intiated warrants

On Jan. 10, as part of the ALE investigation, Dzierzynski separately spoke with Grant and Norris at the Leland Police Department (LPD is not involved in the case and only was used as a meeting location). As a result of his interviews, he noted their accounts of what happened Nov. 16 were “credible and consistent” with one another. 

That determination was made before other evidence came forth, including a 22-second video Norris sent to the ALE. The report’s description of the video matched a shorter 11-second clip posted by Facebook account Jeff Jeffington on Jan. 26; it went viral and has now been viewed 47,000 times, with 749 comments. 

The special agent wrote he was unable to identify the social media user and was “advised by the victims that witnesses were afraid to come forward due to fear of Sholar.”

At approximately 2 p.m. on Jan. 10, Dzierzynski interviewed Grant about the Nov. 16 incident. During Dzierzynski’s interview, the agent wrote Grant recalled sitting at a table in front of the stage while attending Norris’ show and “everything was fine” until a large man — in reference to Sholar — approached Norris during her performance. Grant claimed he grabbed her around the shoulders and “hip-checked her,” knocking the performer off balance. 

Grant remembered Sholar had a beer in his hand and described his approach as a “drunk, physical advance.” Grant said she moved to intervene in the situation when Sholar began yelling and aggressively moving toward her. Grant said Sholar pursued her while yelling “this is my place!” and stated she positioned chairs between herself and Sholar in fear of a physical assault. 

Grant claimed Sholar began to grab the chairs and was “flinging” them aside, injuring her finger in the process. She recalled Sholar holding a beer throughout the altercation and said she saw him drink behind the bar. She said no employees or bartenders intervened or helped during the incident.

Norris, who was interviewed separately on the same day as Grant, had a similar account. According to the violation report, Norris was in the middle of her performance around 7:15 p.m. when a drunk man — who she later discovered was Sholar — walked on stage and “body checked her.”  She said she’d performed at the brewery several times but had never before met Sholar and was startled. The performer said she motioned to Grant for help, who intervened in response.

Norris said the owner then turned his attention toward Grant, by “hovering over her” and thought the roughly 6-foot-4-inch Sholar would hit Grant. She also said Grant used a chair as a buffer between herself and the bar owner, which she claimed Sholar threw aside.

Norris said at one point a patron kept her from going over to Sholar and Grant during the exchange. She then asked the bartenders why they were doing nothing to help, to which they responded: “he’s the owner.”

Sholar repeatedly screamed “Get the f**k out!” to Grant, according to Norris, even after he returned to a group of his friends. She stated Sholar’s friends encouraged him to “act like the owner.”

Norris described the event as humiliating. She recalled Sholar appeared “off-duty,” but was obviously intoxicated and that he drank behind the bar.

On Jan. 19, the agent tried to reach out to a witness identified by Norris and Grant, Joshua Basnight. Grant told Dzierzynski that Basnight was in the upstairs area of the bar on Nov. 16, witnessed the altercation, and sent text messages to Norris afterward. The agent wrote he never heard back from Basnight and that Norris indicated Basnight may be reticent to provide a statement out of fear of retaliation from Sholar and Edward Teach Brewery.

Interviews and affidavits

After interviewing the two victims, Dzierzynski arrived at Edward Teach Brewing on Jan. 12, 2024 at 5 p.m., with two other agents — Wilkerson and special agent Ashley Weaver. He wanted to inspect the brewery and follow up on Norris’ and Grant’s claims.

Around seven to 10 patrons were in the bar when Dzierzynski arrived to begin speaking with people who witnessed the Nov. 16 event. He wrote in his investigative notes the bar was being manned by one person, Noah Powell; Sholar nor Cavasos were onsite at the time. 

During the ALE’s visit, Wilkerson and Weaver inspected the building and found the brewery sold, manufactured, and delivered Edward Teach products despite the expiration of its brewing permit.

Dzierzynski contacted Cavasos through Powell. Upon identification as an ALE officer, he said Cavasos told the agents she was instructed to “not make any statements” and direct everyone to their lawyer, Varnum. Dzierzynski wrote he was clear state law mandates permittees cooperate with law enforcement.

He asked for names of employees who worked the night of Norris’ incident to get statements. The agent also requested surveillance video, to which Cavasos clarified the security footage was no longer available and had been overwritten. She added despite attempting to retrieve it through a forensics data recovery business, it was lost.

Four days later on Jan. 16, the agent tried to reach Cavasos again to acquire information about ETB employees but did not receive a response. Later that day, he received a voicemail from Varnum, who relayed to law enforcement he represented Edward Teach Brewery, Sholar and Cavasos. The agent wrote he interpreted the voicemail “to mean I was not to contact Cavasos directly,” in violation of state law regarding cooperating with law enforcement.

Dzierzynski spoke with Varnum the next day, Jan. 17. The attorney agreed to help coordinate ALE’s interview with staff and requested to be included in the calls.  

In the following days, Dzierzynski interviewed ETB bartenders Logan Chaucer and Noah Powell, along with patron Christina Sprow, each of whom witnessed the Nov. 16 incident. The three were among five who provided affidavits in support of Sholar’s depiction of the event. 

However, the agent claimed he found some inconsistencies in their recollections of the event. Specifically, he said Powell stated Sholar was drinking the night of Norris’ performance, but Chaucer and Sprow “were adamant that he was not.” The agent wrote he found it odd that Chaucer and Sprow “made it a point to emphasize” Sholar was not working in any way the night of the incident, and “he didn’t do anything wrong.”

Powell, who also signed an affidavit for Edward Teach Brewery on Jan. 29, told the ALE during their Jan. 12 visit Sholar was “loudly swearing” and “screaming, yelling and kicking Ms. Grant out” of the bar. According to the ALE’s report, Powell called the Facebook post overblown and said there was not an assault.

Powell’s Jan. 29 affidavit is similar to his Jan. 12 ALE interview in that he said Sholar was drinking and no assault happened. However, he did not describe Grant as the aggressor in the exchange in the interview; in the affidavit, he said Grant “basically charged at Sholar aggressively” and that she followed Sholar around the bar as he repeatedly told her to leave.

The ALE interviewed Sprow on Jan. 19 before she volunteered an affidavit for ETB on Jan. 22. In the interview, Sprow said Sholar was not drinking but did get into a verbal altercation with Grant. According to the report, she did not believe the situation needed police involvement and stated “she did not believe Sholar violated any NC ABC regulations and acted appropriately for the circumstances.”

Sprow’s interview is similar to her affidavit; in both accounts she did not recall Sholar going behind the bar and thought the incident was blown out of proportion. She stated he “did not perform services of any kind” in regards to the brewery and that she “did not witness him serve himself any alcohol” in the affidavit.

Chaucer’s affidavit was signed Jan. 29 for ETB, a week before he had a phone interview with the ALE on Jan. 22, facilitated and monitored by attorney Varnum.

Chaucer said he did not remember Sholar consuming alcohol or working behind the bar in any capacity.

According to the ALE, Chaucer said Sholar approached Norris while she was performing but thought the owner’s actions were “totally innocent.” The report claims Chaucer remembered Grant placing a chair between herself and Sholar, which the owner “kicked out of the way.”

The ALE report states Chaucer remembered Sholar yelling “this is my place!” and “get the f**k out!” He also recalled Norris approaching him and Powell, visibly “scared.” Chaucer said “the incident caused many patrons to close out their tabs and leave,” and he thought Sholar could have behaved “in a more composed way.”

The ALE’s report of the Jan. 22 interview differs from Chaucer’s Jan. 29 affidavit in several respects; in the affidavit, Chaucer stated, “Sholar was drinking a beer.” He also said he “heard a chair fall during the exchange,” but did not see anyone throw a chair, or see any chairs hit patrons — but did not say Sholar kicked it out of the way, unlike the violation report. 

In the affidavit, Chaucer described Grant as the “instigator and aggressor” in the exchange with the ETB owner. Unlike the interview, he did not mention Grant positioning a chair between herself and Sholar — which Grant and Norris claimed in their testimonies. He also did not mention that “many patrons” left the bar due to the incident in the affidavit.

On Jan. 24, Dzierzynski called Varnum to attempt to arrange an interview with Sholar; the attorney said he would “make inquiries about a possible interview.” The agent wrote he had not heard back from Varnum about the interview request as of Jan. 31, the day he called the attorney to inform him his investigation had resulted in a violation report and criminal charges against Sholar.  

Dzierzynski wrote Varnum seemed “shocked” by the decision. The attorney noted he had spoken with multiple people regarding the incident and could provide affidavits from witnesses, which the agent said he would forward to the ABC Commission alongside the violation report. The agent requested Varnum notify Sholar and Cavasos about the violation report and suggested they take part in the Being a Responsible Seller (BARS) program

According to the district court calendar, Sholar will appear before a New Hanover County judge on March 21 for charges related to the two citizen-initiated warrants, as well as the ALE warrant.

Sholar is also involved in a product tampering litigation against former employee Erik Peterson and has a defamation lawsuit against Madonna Nash.

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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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