Three breweries that were part of a new summer festival in Brunswick have withdrawn over the involvement of a concert promoter who had been charged with domestic violence.

The decision was based on the brewery owners’ “zero tolerance policy for domestic and sexual abuse,” the owners said in a statement.

Late last week, the owners of Flight Deck Brewing, Moderation Brewing and Black Pug Brewing learned that Waterfront Concerts had become a sponsor of the “Taste of Summer” festival scheduled for June 22, according to the statement. The event is to be held at Brunswick Landing to celebrate all the commercial activity at the former Navy air base.

Alex Gray Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

Waterfront Concerts is owned by Alex Gray, who pleaded guilty in October 2017 to domestic violence assault, although he denied hitting his girlfriend in an altercation that led to the charge. He was able to withdraw the plea and the charge was dropped a year later under an agreement with prosecutors.

Gray had signed a 22-point agreement with prosecutors, including a clause barring him from contacting his former girlfriend,  in return for the charges being dropped. Prosecutors said he followed the compact for the full year.

“The owner of Waterfront Concerts has a recent and publicly documented record of domestic abuse,” said the statement from the three brewery owners. “Each of our breweries have a zero tolerance policy for domestic and sexual abuse. As a result, as many other companies and communities have done, we choose not to be associated with, or do business with, Waterfront Concerts. We listen to, support and respect survivors.”

Nate Wildes, co-founder of Flight Deck Brewing, declined to comment beyond the statement. Calls to the other brewery owners were not returned.

Gray said Thursday evening that he will talk to festival director Amanda Cahoon to find out how she wants to handle the controversy.
Gray’s sponsorship consisted of providing the festival with tickets to upcoming concerts. Gray said he didn’t know what Cahoon planned to do with the tickets, but speculated they were either going to be raffled or given away.
“We don’t want this to adversely affect Amanda,“ he said. “We’re going to step back from this so it doesn’t hurt her.”
Gray also said he wasn’t surprised that his involvement proved controversial, although he did regret it. The allegations are “in my DNA forever,” he said.

A note on the festival’s Facebook page posted Wednesday said that Lone Pine Brewery and Sam Adams would be selling beer at the festival. The announcement was posted about a half an hour after the page posted that the three Brunswick breweries had pulled out. Representatives of Lone Pine and Sam Adams did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

Cahoon declined to say what Waterfront Concerts’ sponsorship of the event entailed or to provide details on the festival. In a subsequent call, she declined to provide information on the group organizing “Taste of Summer.”

She said the festival is working with Gray’s company, not Gray himself, on the event, which is meant to spotlight development at Brunswick Landing. The former naval aviation base was decommissioned in 2011 and is now occupied by several local businesses, residential neighborhoods and educational institutions. It employs about 1,800 people.

“We saw this as a business decision and not a personal decision,” Cahoon said of the sponsorship deal. “There’s not anything (involving Gray) that’s going to be relatable to the festival.”

She said festival organizers also have a “zero tolerance” standard for domestic abuse. But Cahoon said she doesn’t connect Gray’s background with the sponsorship and the festival, which will feature other breweries, distillers and food trucks along with live music.

“Honestly, I totally detached the two things,” she said. “Sometimes you have to look at it like that.”

Last April, Portland city officials approved a deal with a different concert promoter following  controversy over Gray’s involvement. The promoter, Live Nation, worked with Gray on the concerts.

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