A Hillsborough County judge on Monday granted an injunction against the Dub Shack at UTC—the latest action in a lawsuit filed by World of Beer Franchising, Inc. against SRQBeer USK LLC, the Bradenton company owned by Dean Lambert and Mark Broderick that operated a World of Beer franchise at the Dub Shack location from 2012 till earlier this year. The judge's ruling gives World of Beer till March 26 to buy the bar and thereafter prevents the defendants from operating or working for "any competitive business" within 10 miles of any World of Beer location.
World of Beer's lawsuit charges that SRQBeer, Lambert, Broderick and JDub's Brewing Company, the Sarasota brewery whose beer is featured at the Dub Shack, breached SRQBeer's franchise agreement by converting the University Parkway World of Beer into the Dub Shack. According to Circuit Court judge Steven Stephens' recent order, SRQBeer signed a licensing agreement with JDub's on Jan. 15 and then four days later notified World of Beer that it was closing the World of Beer location. On Jan. 25, World of Beer terminated its franchise deal with SRQBeer. Two days later, the Dub Shack opened, and World of Beer quickly sued, accusing the local franchise owners of violating "post-termination obligations," which include the stipulation that World of Beer be given 60 days to decide whether it wants to purchase a franchise after an agreement is terminated and a rule that bars franchise owners from operating a competing business for two years.
The judge's Monday order states that World of Beer is "substantially likely to succeed on the merits of its breach of contract claims" and is "being irreparably harmed by Defendants' actions." The decision prevents SRQBeer, Lambert and Broderick from selling their interest in the bar to "any third party" and grants World of Beer till March 26 to decide whether it wants to purchase the bar. Starting March 27, SRQBeer and the other defendants are then prohibited from operating a competing business within 10 miles of any World of Beer location, recruiting World of Beer employees or "diverting" customers to "any Competitive Business."
This whole kerfuffle is a bummer. I stopped by the Dub Shack a few weeks ago, shortly after they opened and shortly before news of the lawsuit broke, and came away impressed. If you'd been to that World of Beer before, you know the layout: There's a long bar running away from the door and a big outdoor patio on the right. The beer selection included several pours from JDub's, of course, with a rotating cast of other brews both local and national. I sampled the JDub's dandelion rye IPA and its French oak IPA—both excellent. The music was too loud (as much as I love Sugar Ray...) and the trivia was a little easy (Lincoln and the 13th?), but my friend, Jesse, and I sucked down our suds and chewed on garlic knots from a place next door, and all was right with the world. For the moment.
What's next? Unclear. Neither World of Beer nor Michael Schuchat, the attorney representing Lambert, Broderick and SRQBeer, responded to messages left with them on Tuesday. In a recent filing, JDub's has tried to extricate itself from the lawsuit by arguing it has "no interest" in SRQBeer and is not involved in the dispute over the World of Beer franchise agreement. "It's not our practice to comment on matters that are pending, but the motion to dismiss speaks for itself," says attorney Tommy Gregory, who is representing JDub's. "We look forward to and expect a quick resolution," he adds. Perhaps, but even if JDub's motion is granted, that doesn't mean the dispute between World of Beer and SRQBeer will be settled.