Clubbing To Court

The owner of several Denver nightclubs has filed a lawsuit seeking at least $1 million from a former employee and several of his business partners.

In a 43-page filing, Regas Christou claims that Brad Roulier, who co-owns the online electronic music store Beatport and the city’s Beta club, has used unfair business practices in coordination with New York agency AM Only to monopolize the Denver electronic dance club market.

The suit brings forth a wealth of allegations against Rouiler, Beatport, Beta and AM Only including unlawful tying, monopolization, attempted monopolization, conspiracy to monopolize, conspiracy to eliminate competition by unfair means, theft of trade secrets, violations of the RICO act, intentional interference with prospective business expectancies and civil conspiracy.

Christou, who owns or is affiliated with Denver clubs including The Church, 2 A.M., The Shelter, City Hall, Funky Buddha Lounge, The Living Room and Vinyl, hired Roulier as a talent buyer in 1998.

Christou claims that in 2003 he co-signed a $50,000 loan for Roulier when he co-founded Beatport. Roulier allegedly promised at the time that he would later give Christou partial ownership of the company.

However, by March 2008, Beatport had grown to become a dominant force in the digital electronic music download market and Roulier went out on his own as a clubowner, opening Beta.

That was when things took a turn, the lawsuit says, as Roulier and Co. “began to leverage the overlapping ownership among defendants and the power of Beatport to coerce DJs to boycott [Christou’s] venues and to play only at Beta.”

Specifically, Christou charges Beatport used its position and clout as “the most relevant online source of electronic music in the world” to pressure DJs to perform only at Beta or face the consequences.

“They’ve threatened DJs that if they play at The Church or Vinyl they will pull their songs off Beatport – even that they will pull a DJ’s entire label off Beatport,” Christou said in a statement. “And DJs have no choice but to go along because it’s their financial life at stake.”

AM Only is named an “active participant” in the scheme through its communications “to DJs, agents, and labels that Beatport would punish DJs if they played at [Christou’s] clubs, and by refusing to pass offers for performances from [Christou’s] personnel to A-list DJs represented by AM Only.”

Artists including DJ Rap, Christopher Lawrence, DJ Dan, Sasha and Deadmau5 were allegedly coerced into engagements at Beta.

In one instance, Christou and his talent buyer attempted to offer Deadmau5 $15,000 for a two-hour set at Vinyl following an earlier performance that day at Red Rocks. The suit says the artist expressed interest at the offer, which was “more than double the market rate for such a performance at the time … but after conferring with his agent stated that he could not accept out of fear of angering Mr. Roulier.”

Christou’s suit seeks an injunction to end the predatory and anticompetitive behavior, damages and attorneys’ fees.

Joe Silver, an attorney for Roulier, told the Denver Post the filing surprised his client.

“I think that Mr. Christou may be mistaking Beta’s popularity among the artists and the public as being unfair competition,” he said.
A representative for AM Only declined to comment on the suit.