By John Langeler, July 4, 2014, Northwest Cable News
Since opening her business four years ago, Independence Day is when Beth Brewster is busiest. Her company, Kingston Adventures, rents out kayaks and paddleboards in the summer from a spot it leases from the Port of Kingston.
This year, however, business has dried up. She suspects customers believe she has closed up shop because of a long-running dispute with the port.
Back in April, the port moved a launch float from the space leased by Brewster 30-feet away, even though she contends the float is part of her agreement.
Port officials said it was for safety concerns. Brewster said the new location makes operating her business more challenging, and soon afterwards, questioned the wisdom of the port commissioner and its director.
In the months since, the port has refused her rent payments. It claims she lacks insurance. Brewster denies that.
Port officials have also sent lease termination notices to Kingston Adventures, and posted them around the facility. It indicates Brewster’s business was supposed to be out July 1.
Even online, the port has posted three statements on the rather public dispute, defending the decision to move the float and terminate the agreement with Kingston Adventures.
Brewster has taken her fight to court, filing a federal lawsuit last week that accuses the port and its commissioners of, among other things, gender discrimination.
“The more I researched, the more I saw, ‘Wait, he doesn’t have to do this, but I do. This isn’t on his lease agreement, but it’s on mine,'” said Brewster.
“I’m not being given the same opportunities, I’m not being treated the same as the other, male-run businesses,” she continued.
Kingston Adventures’ allegations include claims the port did nothing when accusations of sexual harassment were made against other tenants and business owners on site.
Port Director David Malone declined to comment on the situation Friday. Port Commissioner Walt Elliott called Brewster’s claims “a fabrication”.
Brewster said if she is removed from the property, in the interim, she will use a smaller public dock nearby to launch her equipment.