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story.lead_photo.caption Guests play in the weekly cornhole tournament Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at Bike Rack Brewing Company's 8th Street Market location in Bentonville. - Photo by Ben Goff

The owners of Bentonville-based Bike Rack Brewing Co. have asked a judge for summary judgment in a suit brought by a former owner who contends he was given a lowball buyout offer and pushed aside by his former partners.

In a filing earlier this month in Benton County Circuit Court, the remaining owners of the brewery argue its contention in the dispute regarding breach of contract is enforceable under law and that it's clear the defendants' actions were not a breach of fiduciary duty.

Bike Rack's owners, and the defendants in the suit, include Jeff Charlson, Andy Neilsen, Joey Lange, Jeff Amerine, Rickey Draehn and Phyllis Amerine, according to court documents.

The case is scheduled for a jury trial in mid-January.

In a brief also filed early this month, the Bike Rack Brewing defendants argue the suit is, at its core, a contract dispute with a disgruntled former owner who is "unhappy with the fruits of his agreement with his former co-owners." It contends Steven Outain agreed to the "unconditional and irrevocable" buyout provision in the company's operating agreement but then balked and sued when the buyout payment didn't meet his expectations.

In September of 2018, Outain, a company founder and its chief development officer, filed suit in Benton County Circuit Court contending his relationship with the other owners had deteriorated. Outain asked, among other things, that the court determine the value of his share of the company, rule that he can't be forced out and award compensatory and punitive damages.

In October of 2018, the owners of Bike Rack Brewing Co. filed a counterclaim against Outain, contending he betrayed their confidence by derailing a company plan to expand to Fort Smith and that he refused a legitimate buyout attempt.

Bike Rack opened its brewery and taproom in Bentonville in 2014, added a second location in Bentonville in 2017 and recently opened a third location in downtown Springdale. It also began distributing its beer to the Little Rock area earlier this year.

In 2018, Bike Rack was the fourth-largest craft beer producer in the state with 2,404 barrels, according to data from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. In 2018, the state's top five craft beer makers accounted for 27,686 barrels, or 73% of the state's total beer production. Little Rock-based Lost Forty Brewery produced the lion's share with 14,250 barrels, or nearly 40% of the state's total.

Arkansas' craft brewers produced nearly 37,500 barrels of beer in 2018, up less than 1% from the year earlier. A barrel of beer contains 31 gallons.

Business on 10/09/2019

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