A mural in the newly reopened Oceanside Ale Works tasting room.
It was only a couple months ago the Reader reported Oceanside Ale Works had shut its doors as the result of a partner dispute. As of March 17th, its doors are officially open to the public once again, with a trio of new owners at the helm. However, that partner dispute persists, and has now spawned a lawsuit
1800 Ord Way, Oceanside
In early January, one of those partners — Mark Purciel — said that he was shuttering the business to dissolve his partnership with cofounder Scott Thomas, and hoped to open a newly branded business out of the same brewhouse later this year.
However, by February his plans changed, and instead he sold the business. “I sold it to Lance for $250,” he says.
That’s Lance Jergensen, whose long career in craft beer spans back to 1988, and includes two stints with Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Company and opening the Vista location of Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company. After responding publicly to a classified ad on ProBrewer.com, Jergensen was contacted by Richard Bell about an opportunity to buy a brewery in Oceanside.
Bell and fiancée Leah Dardis (a homebrewer of ten years) had recently moved to Oceanside, and had a long term plan to start a brewery called Papi Chulo Brew Works, having already launched an online homebrew supply shop of the same name. When they saw the low cost opportunity to buy a turnkey brewery, the couple enlisted Jergensen and struck a deal with Purciel.
The $250 price tag included rights to the brand’s intellectual property, with a five-year lease of the brewhouse to be paid in an undisclosed monthly amount. Purciel says the new owners have every right to change the name of the business, but they chose not to. “I told Richard let’s just keep it as is,” says Jergensen, who didn’t want to alienate the brewery’s existing fanbase, “All these locals who have been supportive these last 12 years.”
While the new owners made changes to the company’s look and feel, and introduced glassware to tasting room preciously notorious for serving beer in disposable plastic cups, it kept much of the business the same. It rehired most of Oceanside’s previous staff, retained head brewer Robert Paramore, and continue to brew many of the same recipes, with plans to continue bottling and canning several of its flagship beers.
“It was definitely serendipitous when they came in,” said Purciel during a soft open event on March 10th. “I could lease my building, they could just take over everything.”
However, Purciel’s ongoing legal entanglements with Thomas now extend to include the three new owners, as well as Purciel’s father, Robin.
On March 16th, attorneys for Thomas filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court, accusing the group of having “through a series of fraudulent transactions… conspired to defraud plaintiff from possession of his interest in property belonging to Oceanside Ale Works (OAW).”
In his complaint to the court, Thomas contends he and Purciel had “discussed dissolution of the partnership” in January 2014, when the business carried $60-thousand in debt, “not including the note on the property.” Unable to reach an agreement, Thomas sued in March 2015 to have court appoint someone to oversee dissolution. “Since then,” alleges the document, “defendant Mark Purciel has allowed the debt to skyrocket in an effort to squeeze plaintiffs interest in OAW and its assets.”
Among the list of accusations listed in the complaint, is that on January 4th, Purciel “purportedly sold furniture, fixtures, and assets of OAW” to Robin Purciel for $16,500; and that “at some point” Robin Purciel sold them to Bell, Jergensen, and Dardis.
The suit concludes that Thomas was thus, “denied the benefit of ownership of the property,” and seeks damages.
Reached for comment this week, Mark Purciel says his father purchased the equipment as part of liquidating assets to dissolve the partnership, and the new owners are leasing that equipment from his father. He maintains his intent is to quit the brewing business.
“I’m not circumventing what’s going on with that [legal proceedings], I’m just out,” Purciel also said on March 10th. Asked whether he had any intention of being this, or any other brewery’s owner again, he responded, “No. God no. Hell no. The state of California, government agencies, all the stuff like that — you own a brewery all you do is fucking paperwork. I’m done.”
The new owners professed surprise about the lawsuit and say their paperwork is in order. Regarding Thomas adding them as defendants in his partner dispute, Bell says, “He has no reason to have any kind of qualm with us.”
They have enlisted attorneys to handle the lawsuit, and they are proceeding business as usual. “We just want to brew beer,” says Jergensen.
For the moment, Oceanside Ale Works continues to brew on an ABC license in Purciel’s and Thomas’s names, labeled “Review Pending.” A court date is set for September. Thompson’s lawyer declined to comment on pending litigation.
April 4 update
Reports out of Oceanside indicate the new owners have withdrawn from Oceanside Ale Works, which has once again closed. Brewer Robert Paramore has taken an assistant brewer job with nearby Oceanside brewery, Midnight Jack Brewing.