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  Comments (2) Total Saturday Apr. 19, 2014
Whitefish Beer Barter Canceled
Indemnification dispute with city officials forces cancellation of popular downtown event
Troy Nooroa shows off his fire dancing skills at a previous Beer Barter in Whitefish. - courtesy photo
The Great Northern Brewing Company has canceled its popular downtown Beer Barter and Talent Show scheduled for Feb. 8 due to an insurance and indemnification dispute with Whitefish city officials.

The decision to cancel the event comes on the heels of a 4-1 decision by the Whitefish City Council to overrule an earlier decision by the city manager and police chief to deny a special events permit for the event. That decision was born of concerns about open containers outside of the designated premises, which Police Chief Bill Dial said he witnessed in previous years.

In making its decision to act against Dial's advice, the council applied a host of conditions to the permit, including requiring a performance bond and the addition of security officers, as well as an indemnification clause to protect the city against liability. The indemnification clause, which the city says was necessary, was ultimately deemed unacceptable by the brewery’s insurance company.

"It was a page-long document and we came within one word of reaching an agreement," Whitefish City Manager Chuck Stearns said Friday. "We have to protect the taxpayers from possible lawsuits that could arrive from something happening at this event."

The brewery was recently notified that the permit had been denied and appealed the decision to the Whitefish City Council. The event was slated to take place in front of the brewery on Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish. The Beer Barter first took place in the late 1990s and was revived in 2011. Last year it attracted nearly 1,000 spectators who watched participants barter talents and items for a year’s supply of beer.

Following the council's decision at its Monday night meeting, Great Northern Brewing Company General Manager Marcus Duffey said the event would move forward; however, after multiple discussions with the brewery’s insurance company a resolution was not in sight.

According to a statement from the brewery: "Ten conditions were drafted as necessary elements for the City’s approval of the permit. The tenth condition required the Brewery to sign an indemnification clause. The indemnification was very broad, and Great Northern’s insurance company highly recommended the Brewery not sign the document as it was drafted, as it would leave the Brewery liable for things that the insurance company could not cover. Great Northern submitted proposed changes to the indemnification language, but the City would not accept the language changes necessary for Great Northern to proceed with the event. Not having insurance coverage eliminated all possibility of the event occurring as planned."

Although the Beer Barter as originally planned has been canceled, Great Northern Brewing Company has invited several of the participants to perform talents or exchange their treasures on the stage within the Brewery’s premise following Saturday’s Grand Parade. Great Northern will still award 52 cases of beer to the winner. The amended bartering event will commence around 4:30 p.m. following the Grand Parade as part of the Brewery’s 19th Anniversary Celebration. All are welcome to join the festivities.

“Although we received the support of some representatives of the City, the indemnification agreement required by the City of Whitefish was unacceptable to our insurance company, therefore making the Beer Barter uninsurable. It has forced us to retract our permit application — we cannot host an event without insurance,” according to a post on the Great Northern Brewing Company’s Facebook page. “Thank you for the support of the Whitefish community and Whitefish Winter Carnival. We hope everyone still joins us at the Brewery to celebrate our 19th Anniversary ... the party will start at noon.”

The cancellation means the streets of downtown Whitefish will re-open following the Grand Parade Saturday afternoon.

Duffey said he looked forward to working with the city in coming years to ensure the Beer Barter could take place.

"Mayor John Muhlfeld was a pleasure to work with throughout the process,”Duffey said. “I believe Mayor Muhlfeld was fair and interested in allowing the Beer Barter to continue for years to come."
On 02-10-14, MontanaTrace commented....
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