By John Wenzel and Ricardo Baca
Denver nightclub kingpin Regas Christou is alleging monopolistic practices against Beta Nightclub head Brad Roulier, who rivals Christou’s empire in town despite owning only one club.
Neither Christou nor Roulier would comment when contacted by The Post on Thursday, Dec 2. But Christou’s lawsuit claims an impact of more than $1 million in losses.
“Mr. Christou has substantial evidence towards the allegations,” said Englewood lawyer Jeffrey S. Vail, who is representing Christou in the lawsuit. “These actions have been harming not only Mr. Christou but others in the community, and we’re confident they will come forward during this process.”
Joe L. Silver, Roulier’s lawyer, said he and Roulier were surprised by the lawsuit and don’t think the allegations are at all accurate.
“I think that Mr. Christou is really mistaking Beta’s popularity among the artists and the public as being unfair competition,” he said. “That’s what this suit may well be about.”
Vail filed the anti-competitive suit on Wednesday, Dec. 1 in the United States District Court. The lawsuit claims that the defendants — which include LoDo club Beta, its owner Roulier, Colorado-based digital download service Beatport (also co-owned by Roulier) and New York-based artist management service AM Only — have an unfair monopoly on A-list DJ bookings in Denver dance clubs.
The lawsuit claims that the defendants have leveraged access to the influential Beatport service, which acts as an iTunes for the electronic music industry, to “coerce” A-list DJs to only play Beta in Denver. The anti-competitive and “predatory” actions — including the message to DJs that if they want full access/promotional support from Beatport, their only Denver play will be Beta — have resulted “in higher prices and fewer offerings for consumers,” it asserts.
DJ Rap allegedly was forced into an engagement at Beta, even when she preferred the Church, because Roulier told her booking agency that her two record labels’ catalogs would be yanked from Beatport’s service if she played his competitors’ rooms, the lawsuit says. Another artist, Deadmau5, was offered $15,000 for a recent two-hour set — “but after conferring with his agent stated that he could not accept out of fear of angering Mr. Roulier.”
Other artists mentioned in the lawsuit include Christopher Lawrence, DJ Dan and Sasha.
Roulier formerly booked top-name DJs for Christou’s clubs, which include popular South Broadway spots Vinyl, the Church, 2 A.M., Bar Standard and others. Roulier left Christou’s clubs in 2007 to start his own club, Beta, and continue building his Beatport brand and DJ booking business.
Roulier has never hidden the link between Beta and Beatport. A room in Beta is marketed as the Beatport Lounge.
The lawsuit also relates a conversation where an agent at AM Only, Alex Chaykin, told Christou’s talent buyer that AM Only reserves its top-tier DJ plays in Denver for Beta because it “has a lot to do with (AM Only’s top) artists and their relationship with Brad (Roulier) and Beatport.”
The lawsuit builds up Beatport as a tastemaking giant and an economical necessity in the global electronic music industry. An A-list DJ told Christou’s talent buyer, “(Beatport) is the only electronic store that counts,” while the head of an unnamed electronic label told them that “there’s nothing bigger than Beatport to get my products out there,” according to the suit.
“This really began after Mr. Roulier left (Christou’s employ) at the the end of 2007,” Vail said of the allegations. “(Christou’s bookers) realized Beatport’s influence in the industry was too strong, and given the way they were conspiring, not able to solve the problem except through legal action.”
Other fascinating claims from the lawsuit:
Roulier, who was planning to purchase the Church nightclub from Christou, “concealed” his plans of opening Beta while still going forward with his supposed purchase of the Church, it claims.
Roulier had promised an ownership stake in Beatport to Christou — in exchange for his co-signing a $50,000 start-up loan for Roulier. “Roulier has never fulfilled his promise,” the suit says.
Some of these DJs are playing for a lower guarantee at Beta than they would at the Church or Vinyl, simply because of Roulier’s threats, it says.
This isn’t the first high-profile anti-competitive lawsuit dealing with the music industry in Colorado. Denver-based indie promoter Nobody in Particular Presents famously sued industry behemoth Clear Channel in August 2001; The companies settled the matter out of court years later, with Clear Channel paying an undisclosed sum to NIPP.
Christou’s lawsuit is seeking an end to the alleged anti-competitive behavior and damages of at least $1 million to replace lost profits, to be determined during a potential trial.
John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of completely random song titles and band names.