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Bitter beer battle spills into court

Newtonian label

One of the labels in question.

A Newton craft brewery that lets customers create their own beers and a Boston marketing firm are suing each other over a six-month marketing contract they signed in January.

Hopsters LLC owner Lee Cooper says Marlo Marketing Communications owner Marlo Fogelman owes him roughly $25,000 for breaking the contract after just three months - and for not completing work on labels for two of his beer lines.

Fogelman charges Cooper was a jerk to her employees - and not for the first time - says her employees did far more work than they originally planned to before she canceled the contract and that Hopsters is illegally using the beer labels that her firm designed but only got half-paid for.

Cooper originally sued in Suffolk Superior Court; Fogelman had the case moved to federal court in Boston this week, in part because of the federal copyright issues involved.

In his complaint, Cooper said he agreed to hire Marlo Marketing in January at $60,000 for six months of work to create buzz around a planned South Boston Waterfront outlet and to design labels for two beers and that, at first, Marlo did its work just fine, including getting an article in Boston Metro.

But in April, Cooper alleges, Fogelman abruptly canceled the contract and said she would not refund any money, in a note that read, in part "Your behavior ... is once again, jeopardizing my staff and I simply will not tolerate it."

Cooper says he's owed a refund because Fogelman had agreed to a lump-sum-per-month payment and to not charge by the hour, and that Fogelman never turned over the half-paid-for beer labels. Cooper is also seeking damages for the fraud and lost business he claims are the result of the early contract termination.

Fogelman fires back that rather than trying to simply drum up support for the Waterfront outlet, Cooper wanted her to make "Hopsters authentic and me a bad ass" and to help rehabilitate his brand, which she alleges came under heavy fire during a December Twitter war with the owner of the Craft Beer Cellar chain, which had directed its franchisees to not stock Hopster beers.

Fogelman says she reluctantly agreed to take Hopsters back on as a client - because an earlier experience with Cooper had left a bad taste in her mouth. In fact, her complaint alleges, she only agreed to a contract after Cooper promised that he "would not, as he had in the past, mistreat or abuse Marlo Marketing's staff." The complaint continues:

Mr. Cooper agreed, stating, "I'll check my behavior, however, I want to be active in the strategic direction - with the caveat that you tell me to fuck off anytime and I'll also pay you in advance so I have no redress.

Things came to a head, Fogelman's complaint alleges, on April 13, when Cooper complained about the label for his Newtonian beer and then demanded, in "an abusive, demeaning and insulting tirade," that her employees either redesign the label at no charge, or give him the label files so he could have somebody else work on it.

Fogelman, the complaint says, decided that was quite enough and severed her relationship with Cooper - whom she alleges then went on to use the label anyway, even though he never paid the full agreed upon price, and even though Marlo still owns the copyright on them, because it was never paid in full for them.

Fogelman concludes by asking a judge to dismiss Cooper's complaint and to award her damages for the lost money and reputation she alleges Cooper has cost her - as well as any profits he's made from his Newtonian and Comet Citra beers adorned with the new labels, plus damages for those.

Complaints and exhibits related to the suits (7.1M PDF).

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Bad behavior and tirades are tiresome "reality" TV fare, sure, but the reality is that acting like toddler has real consequences in real life.

Unless you get elected president, that is.

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Why aren't you covering the batter battles over the bitter brittle?

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The headline was going for alliteration and then halfway through it turned into a pun.

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I've been a motion graphics designer for over 16 years in both a freelance and agency capacity, and I've encountered a handful of asshats just like this Lee Cooper guy.

They're all the same... they think their shit product is the most amazing thing in the world (even though it isn't selling because it's shit) and the one thing that's going to save them is amazing packaging/branding/advertising/marketing.

Not only are they wrong (because in the end, their product is still shit), when it comes to branding or design, these types of guys simply can't get out of their own way. They think they know everything, and they micro-manage every minute detail of the design.

I can guess what happened here based on his bombastic personality in his YouTube videos... Cooper probably became verbally abusive or aggressive after dozens of rounds of mind-numbing design revisions to his labels, likely obsessing over something stupid like shade of a color, and quickly burning through the amount of time that Marlo Marketing allotted to his project.

Unfortunately for Mr. Cooper, things are not in his favor, and I'm sure the contract he and Marlo entered into prior to beginning the work will prove that out.

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Fortunately, guys like Lee Cooper are more the exception and not the rule in the hospitality biz these days. Used to be the other way around, but this pompous, self important idiot is conspicuous in the industry by the size of his ego compared to the depth of his knowledge and experience. Having an insiders view of him and his business practices gives me the ability to throw my full support to MM, a professional and accomplished firm. I have seen first hand Cooper's foul mouthed, abusive treatment of staff, vendors and associates. The staff at his operation turns over on a very regular basis....even managers and the head brewer position has been a revolving door since the day the place opened. It only takes a month or two before optimistic new hires are exposed to the hostile atmosphere that drives them out the door. The primary reason he survives is because he is well funded by his wife's wealthy family and his ability to bamboozle potential investors and patrons.

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