Ballston Spa

Whiskey sour: Yankee Distillers co-owner takes partner to court

Marked contrast from celebratory scene in July 2015
Yankee Distillers in Fairchild Square in Clifton Park.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Yankee Distillers in Fairchild Square in Clifton Park.

The partnership behind a craft spirits distillery in Clifton Park apparently has taken a turn for the worse.

Walter Kleemeier has initiated legal action to take control of Yankee Distillers from Matthew Jager. Papers filed April 25 on Kleemeier’s behalf in Supreme Court in Saratoga County indicate he is unhappy with the actions of Jager, alleging among other things violations of New York’s limited liability corporation law, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, waste, looting and diversion of company assets for non-company purposes.

The papers indicate the two each own 50 percent shares of the distillery and that Jager is the manager.

The paperwork paints a picture in marked contrast to the celebratory scene in July 2015, when the partners cut the ribbon on their facility in Fairchild Square in Clifton Park. Two years later, Yankee Distillers is highlighting five of its products — bourbon, rye, vodka and two types of rum — on its website. The spirits are sold by the bottle at a variety of liquor stores across the region and by the glass at a smaller number of bars and restaurants.

The court papers allege that Jager:

  • Mismanaged the company.
  • Changed the locks to keep Kleemeier out of the premises and away from books and records.
  • Hasn’t paid state sales and excise taxes and federal excise taxes.
  • Has been late with rent payments.
  • Opened new bank accounts and diverted company assets there without knowledge and consent of Kleemeier or the company’s lenders.
  • Hired his girlfriend over Kleemeier’s objections when her services were not needed.
  • Refused to file a corporate change application with the state Liquor Authority.

As a result, the lawsuit contends, Yankee Distillers is at risk of losing its state Liquor Authority licenses; being evicted from its place of business; and having lenders immediately call due more than $382,000 in loans for which Kleemeier is a personal guarantor.

The court papers seek a temporary restraining order that would restrain Jager and anyone acting on his behalf from:

  • Barring Kleemeier’s access to the company’s premises and records.
  • Signing Yankee checks without Kleemeier’s written consent.
  • Disposing of any Yankee assets except bottles of liquor sold for fair market value.
  • Writing any checks or using any assets of Yankee to pay his own legal costs.
  • Making any distributions or payments from the the company’s bank account to Jager without the written consent of Kleemeier.
  • Hiring anyone without written consent of Kleemeier.
  • Interfering with Kleemeier acting as manager of Yankee Distillers.

The motion also seeks to require Jager to fire Brianna Lee and reinstate Kleemeier’s email account at the company.

The paperwork seeks damages awarded to Kleemeier in an amount to be determined at trial, and believed to be in excess of $400,000.

Richard L. Burstein of Nolan & Heller LLP, representing Kleemeier, did not return a request for comment Monday. Matthew Wagoner of The Wagoner Firm PLLC, representing Jager, declined to comment.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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