By Tim Kelly, August 7, 2014, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal
Is the PortofKingston evicting an obstinate tenant who refuses to comply with reasonable regulations? Or is management retaliating against a successful woman business owner who publicly questioned the port’s policies and decisions?
Those disparate views are the basis for lawsuits filed by the port and Kingston Adventures owner Beth Brewster against each other.
While waiting for courts to consider the issues, the more urgent matter for Brewster is letting people know Kingston Adventures still has stand-up paddleboards and kayaks to rent this summer on Appletree Cove.
“Right now we’re just trying to get word out that we’re still open,” Brewster said in late July.
The port filed an eviction lawsuit in Kitsap County Superior Court after Kingston Adventures did not comply with a notice served May 19 to remove its kayaks from racks at the port’s small-watercraft facility by June 30.
That followed a lawsuit Brewster filed June 26 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, claiming the port’s actions trying to force her business out are retaliatory, and that she is facing discrimination as a woman business owner.
The months-long dispute between Brewster and the port that led to the lawsuits stems from moving a float that Kingston Adventures had used the past two summers to launch its kayaks and paddleboards.
The 220-square-foot float had been next to the dock and storage racks at the small-watercraft facility. It was moved in April to a different spot on the waterfront that is not easily accessible for people who rent watercraft from Kingston Adventures, Brewster said.
The port said the float is owned by the city of Poulsbo and was moved to better accommodate a sailing program run by the city’s parks department. A statement on the port’s website also said the previous location of the float in the marina fairway violated safety standards.
Both sides accuse the other of refusing to work out a compromise solution to the contentious situation.
Brewster’s attorney, Dennis McGlothin, said the decision to move the float in April came two months after Brewster began publicly criticizing some port decisions, including its refusal to allow use of a large tent for a planned winter community festival.
McGlothin also said the claim of discrimination in Brewster’s lawsuit is based on the port’s documented “history of treating women differently than men,” particularly in businesses on port property.
The port’s online statement said Kingston Adventures was ordered to vacate because of “ongoing violations of their kayak storage agreement and … refusal to enter into a commercial use agreement” for port facilities.
Brewster’s lawsuit claims her business has operated on a month-to-month use agreement with the port since her initial one-year contract expired in 2012, and that agreement should remain in effect.
McGlothin had asked in Kitsap County Superior Court for a stay of the port’s eviction lawsuit until Brewster’s discrimination lawsuit is heard in federal court. That request was denied and the case was scheduled for trial.
McGlothin said Brewster was willing to sign a new commercial use agreement, but objects to a non-disparagement clause inserted by port Commissioner Bruce McIntyre that would void the agreement if Brewster publicly makes any negative comments about the port.
“Basically, our position is they just don’t want her around,” McGlothin said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecifed damages for lost business caused by the port’s actions.
“We have lost sales,” Brewster said. “The Fourth of July is typically a time we have no equipment available, and there were times we had no one on the water” during this summer’s holiday weekend.
She said losing access to the float also limits the ability to stage large group events, such as the popular Bioluminescence Paddle held at night.
Brewster, an accomplished triathlete who competed in the Ultraman Championships last year in Hawaii, opened her business in 2011.
After the float was moved this spring, a large group of people supporting Brewster and her business attended an April 23 port commission meeting. They asked commissioners to restore Kingston Adventures’ use of the float or find another solution.
Despite the challenges facing her business this summer, Brewster hosted her fourth annual women’s retreat the first weekend in August. The event includes many outdoor activity choices, plus a women’s health and fitness expo.