POWNAL >> About a dozen people who worked at a brewfest at the former Green Mountain Racetrack last month say the venue owner never paid them.
Contract workers for the Green Mountain Brewfest say they have filed complaints with the state's Department of Labor against the racetrack's owner. The complaints express concern over safety, and allege that staff were not compensated or reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses and that repeated emails and calls to the racetrack owner in the last two weeks have not been returned.
Derek Signore, of Norwalk, Conn., said he was under contract to produce the May 21 festival. He said he and 12 staff members he hired were not paid the day of the event as the parties previously agreed. And W-9 tax forms and receipts were sent to Stephen Soler, racetrack owner and main organizer behind the event, weeks ago, Signore said, but no one ever received payment.
Two separate complaints have been filed with the state agency's Workers' Compensation and Safety and Wage & Hour divisions. Signore said, in addition to filing complaints, he intends to take legal action against Soler.
"We believe we've upheld our terms," Signore said on Tuesday. "This is unacceptable behavior. It's something that affects my staff's livelihood."
The last communication anyone received from Soler was on June 8, said Signore, who provided the Banner with emails between himself, Soler, state agencies and a vendor. In an email, Soler wrote to Signore and staff he was "waiting for reimbursements from the various distributors" and that "until we get those funds we will withhold paying any amounts due." Soler also took issue with attendance, which he said was originally "sold" as being 1,500 people, but shrunk to under 500.
But Signore disputed that he ever tried to "sell" Soler on a number. He pointed to how the last event was cancelled 10 days before it was scheduled.
"We knew we would have to rebuild the public trust with a lot of people mad about last year," Signore said. "And that [the cancellation] would have taken a toll on local vendors."
It's all another chapter in the sordid story of the site, a former major economic engine that largely sits vacant. It was a horse racing venue after opening in 1963 and was converted to greyhound in 1976. It closed in 1992 amid pressure from animal rights and anti-gambling activists. It has hosted car shows, fairs and the 1996 Lollapalooza Music Festival. For years, owners have wanted to turn it into a performance and events venue.
Soler's company Green Mountain Racetrack, LLC acquired the 144-acre acre property — with its 64,000-square-foot, art-deco style, glass and metal grandstand — from Progress Partners LTD in 2015. Full Tilt Boogie, headlined by ZZ Top, was cancelled last summer at the last minute, reportedly due to a dispute over the Pan Am Railway crossing, leaving attendees and vendors scratching their heads.
A handful of staff were to receive $50 as reimbursement for a liquor control certification test and gas expenses, according to emails Signore provided the Banner and DOL. Payments ranged from $688.15 — which included a $388.15 reimbursement for ice — to $1,775.
Signore was under contract with Southern Vermont Beer Festival LLC, of which Soler's company Stockbridge Realty Advisors is listed as principal. The contract, which was sent to the Banner, states Signore was to be paid $7,500 and 20 percent of all profits generated, no later than 30 days after the event. Soler was responsible for payment to vendors, entertainment and other aspects relating to finance.
Attempts to reach Soler on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979