Legal feud brews between Aspen cafe, barista
January 12, 2011
ASPEN – An Aspen coffee shop has filed a lawsuit against one of its former employees for turning off an espresso machine on his last day of work.
Aspen Espresso Co., which does business as Victoria’s Espresso and Wine Bar, is suing Zachary Lockwood for breach of contract. The South Mill Street cafe also is seeking a restraining order to keep Lockwood from working at other coffee houses in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. Lockwood, meanwhile, has filed a response to the lawsuit, calling it a “frivolous” attempt to harass him.
The tiff apparently began after Lockwood’s final day of work, when he “intentionally attempted to sabotage [the coffee shop’s] espresso machine by turning it off, contrary to all instructions, fully knowing that this would cause the [coffee shop] to miss at least an hour of business the following morning while the machine came back to temperature.”
The incident occurred Aug. 14, 2010, says the suit, which was filed Sept. 21. Last month, Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely set the matter for trial on March 11.
Lockwood, the suit says, signed an agreement that he would not “disclose to any third party any of the techniques, skills or other knowledge that he learnt as part of training” and he would not work as a barista “at any cafe or coffee shop in Aspen or elsewhere in the Roaring Fork Valley for two years after the end of his employment,” the suit claims.
Lockwood, who worked less than three months at the cafe, isn’t backing down.
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Through Edwards, Colo., attorney Burton Levin, Lockwood filed a response to the suit saying that he “is free to work as a ‘barista’ wherever he wants …”
The response says Lockwood “further denies the allegations that he attempted to sabotage Plaintiff’s espresso machine, and notes that Plaintiff does not allege it suffered any damage to the machine or lost profits.”
The answer also says Lockwood quit the job because he was not paid in a timely manner and his manager “was otherwise difficult to work for.”
Because Lockwood was an at-will employee, he was free to quit on his own accord and work at another coffee shop, the response says.
“[Lockwood] is simply trying to earn a living. [Lockwood] likes his current job and is unwilling to be bullied and pressured by this frivolous lawsuit into quitting his job, regardless of Plaintiff’s vindictiveness in filing this suit,” the response says.
Aspen attorney John Beatty filed the complaint on behalf of Victoria’s. He did not reply to a telephone message seeking comment for this story.