Big E’s Pulls Out of Tour de Terrace, Puts Blame on Councilmember Zambrano


The rumors are true, Big E’s (Ellersick Brewery) will not be running the beer garden at Tour de Terrace this year.

To Rick Ellerisck, owner of the brewery, there’s one reason that they won’t be at the festival this year: Mountlake Terrace City Councilmember John Zambrano.

Ellersick says that the whole ordeal was put in to motion when John Zambrano, who Ellersick says is a “sensationalist”, made accusations about Tour de Terrace’s finances at City Council meetings in March of this year. We covered the issue extensively here and here. In addition to Zambrano’s argument that Tour de Terrace was not a bona fide non-profit organization he insinuated that the proper taxes on the sale of beer may not have been paid:

[box]”I’m sure that for every schooner that is consumed in the beer garden, that the provider, probably thinking that Tour de Terrace is a non-profit, sold the commodity to Tour de Terrace at a a reduced exempt rate and yet the pour value of the particular commodity constitues revenue. And if he sells it to Tour de Terrace at an exempt rate then that means the burden of collecting taxes for the state rests with Tour de Terrace.” said Councilmember Zambrano at the Match 7th City Council meeting.[/box]

Ellersick says that Zambrano had no documentation to back up his claims and that there was no truth to them. Ellersick also claimed that Zambrano had inquired with the Washington State Attorney General’s office as to whether Tour de Terrace was a non-profit organization and while under investigation, the Liquor Control Board got involved.

The issue at hand is about the license that is required to serve alcohol at the festival. The license that is required for this type of event is called a special occasions license. A special occasion license allows a nonprofit organization to sell alcohol at a specified date, time, and place and Tour de Terrace has received this type of license for many years for the festival beer garden.

The way the beer garden has been run in the past is that Big E’s provided the beer and staffed the garden. Big E’s employees sold the beer, poured the drinks and provided security. Herein lies the problem. According to the guidelines of the license (WAC 314-05-030), alcohol manufacturers, importers and distributors are not allowed to provide services at the event unless it is a “beer or wine tasting exhibition or judging event.” I spoke with Lt. Rich Manoli from the Liquor Control Board and he said the purpose of this is to separate the retail part of alcohol sales from the non-profit event. Manoli said that in the past non-profit organizations have been taken advantage of by retailers or promoters of events. So even though Ellersick has said that all proceeds from the sale of the beer goes back in to Tour de Terrace, Big E’s staff would still not be allowed to serve at the beer garden, even if they were unpaid volunteers.

You may be wondering what has changed from last year to this year and why Big E’s has been able to run the beer garden at Tour de Terrace for many years. According to Lt. Manoli, who reviewed the license application, the Liquor Control Board had realized that these type of violations had been slipping through the cracks and the Board recently revised questions on the application to bring these types of violations to light. Specifically, the application now asks if breweries are involved in the event and how the money from the sale of the alcohol will be used. When Tour de Terrace Chairman Jerry Smith filled out the application, he specified that Ellersick Brewery would be involved and that after the beer was purchased and Big E’s employees were paid, the proceeds would go to Tour de Terrace. Rick Ellersick said that this money was generally used to pay for bands and equipment such as chairs.

Big E’s is very proud of the way they have been running the beer garden. According to Ellersick he does not know of any fights or DWI’s that have ever been associated with the beer garden at Tour de Terrace.

[box]”All you have is your name and your reputation,” said Ellersick.[/box]

Ellersick says that while his beer could still be sold at the event, he has decided not to sell his product to Tour de Terrace this year. Professionalism is very important to Ellersick and he said that since staffing of the beer garden is now out of his control he doesn’t necessarily want his beer to be associated with the event. Ellersick seemed confident that the Tour de Terrace beer garden featuring Big E’s ales would be back next year in one way or another.

While Ellersick puts the blame on Councilmember John Zambrano, Zambrano says that he never even contacted the Attorney General’s office. Zambrano says his main concern was about who has been paying the liquor taxes on the beer sold at Tour de Terrace. According to Rich Manoli with the Liquor Control Board the brewery (in this case Big E’s) is responsible for paying the liquor tax. He also added that the Board does regular audits on retailers and that they have not found any liquor tax related issues with Big E’s. Zambrano did admit to contacting the Liquor Control Board but only after Mountlake Terrace resident, Margaret Loiseau, contacted the Board inquiring about the liquor tax issue. Zambrano says that he contacted the Board two days after Loiseau “as a precaution to said complaint being filed on the bottom of someone’s to do list.”

[box]”My interest was spiked when the MLTnews story came out about the legitimacy of Tour de Terrace. Then after listening to the March 3, 2011 meeting, I picked up on Ellersick’s comments regarding the beer garden causing me to question who was paying the taxes on the beer. Thus, my inquiry regarding the Big E Brewery to the Washington State Liquor Control Board,” said Loiseau.[/box]

According to Manoli it was just the normal review of the application that brought the Big E’s staffing issue to light. While he did admit there was an email that went around about Tour de Terrace’s application, he said that it didn’t necessarily change his response, specifically that Big E’s could not be involved at the event.

Rick Ellersick and Tour de Terrace received the news from the Liquor Control Board on Thursday, July 14, just two weeks before Tour de Terrace begins on July 29. News quickly spread on Monday, July 18, when Seaun Richards posted the following on Facebook as the Red Onion:

[box]”It’s official. After 10 years Big E Ales will not be at Tour de Terrace this year. Thanx to Concilman[sic] John Zambrano, and his antics Big E had to pull out. There will still be a beer garden with Bud and Bud Light. We are looking for volunteers. When you see Councilman Zambrano I encourage you to let him know what you think of a local business being forced out of a 19 year tradition.”[/box]

Seaun Richards, a known close associate of Mayor and Tour de Terrace Chairman Jerry Smith, is running for City Council Position 7 against John Zambrano and Kim Michel. Our very unofficial straw poll on Facebook says this may be a very close race: Zambrano – 28%, Richards – 28%, Michel – 7%, Undecided – 41%. The primary on August 17 will bring the field down to the top two.

There is a long tradition of people getting together at the Big E’s beer garden at Tour de Terrace. Generally every night of the festival you can find impromptu Terrace class reunions from alumni who either still live in town or make a point of showing up to see old friends.

Unfortunately the Big E’s beer garden as we all know it won’t be happening this year.

A victim of politics? Maybe. Maybe not.

[box]”I hate politics, that’s why I make beer.” said Rick Ellersick.[/box]

We’ve been told that the festival organizers are working hard to provide an alternative. If so, I’ll be there. And I invite you to join me for a beer, let’s just keep politics out of it.

*We reached out to Jerry Smith for comments but were unable to meet with him prior to publication of our story. We will do a follow-up story in the coming week with comments from Jerry Smith and news about what we can expect from the beer garden.

Photo by Cian Ginty via Flickr using a CC-BY-NC-SA license.

UPDATE: Tour de Terrace: Beer Garden is on


  1. Yes, it’s political.  Yes, it’s a “school yard squabble.”  But, you still have to obey laws and regulations, and the Liquor Control Board made it pretty clear that it would be, and has been, a violation of state code for Big E’s to be involved.

  2. If MLT wants a council member that will turn his head from the laws that this article is based around, Seaun is the guy for you!  He is trying to advance his campaign against Zambrano by blaming him for Big E not participating, when what the council member was doing was exactly what he was elected to do.  Really think about the simple fact that Seaun has a problem with Zambrano making sure that everything is above board, which by inference implies that if he were to see the same discrepency he would do nothing about it.  This terrifies me to think that a candidate would be so cavalier about the responsibilities of the position he is running for. 

    • I am teaching my 5 year old son that if no one is bleeding or broken that he needs to work it out with his friends.  They are old enough to know right from wrong.  Zambrano needs to go back to kindergarten, apparently he missed this lesson. While he may have recognized some issues, he’s made mountains out of mole hills, wasted time, energy and money better utilized for PRODUCTIVE things. Common sense has left the building?  

      Zambrano has shown NO concern for MLT or the citizens of MLT.  Check your facts “Photolover”.  Seaun didn’t place the blame on Zambrano, he stated a fact, further confirmed by this well researched and fairly written article. 

      • The Red Onion Facebook post that started this all:

        It’s official. After 10 years Big E Ales will not be at Tour de Terrace this year. Thanx to Concilman John Zambrano,
        and his antics Big E had to pull out. There will still be a beer garden
        with Bud and Bud Light. We are looking for volunteers. When you see
        Councilman Zambrano I encourage you to let him know what you think of a
        local business being forced out of a 19 year tradition

        There is no fact here Melissa,  I want to know what Seaun would have done if he had discovered the exact same discrepancies.  Ignored them?  Buried them?  Anything shy of enforcing the law is unacceptable.  It certainly isn’t popular, but that doesn’t make it wrong. 

        This is a little different than the school yard squable, kids go to time out if you do something wrong, adults go to jail and pay major fines for not paying their taxes.  If John had discovered this and not said anything it is his hide.  It is illegal.  It is wrong.  He did the right thing by upholding the law, like it or not.

        • I have no question that Seaun would have helped to find a solution.  Seaun has integrity and whole hearted concern for the MLT community and local businesses.  Tell me what Zambrano has done to better MLT?  Ever?  Seaun has done more for MLT in two years than I’ve ever heard of Zambrano doing.  Zambrano has only made problems, no solutions.  He certainly doesn’t act with integrity.

          John discovered nothing about the taxes.  He just cast accusations and caused an investigation to be launched.  The investigation found NOTHING wrong with the taxes.  John cried wolf and there wasn’t one.  How many times are the residents of MLT going to let him cry wolf and let him get away with it.  That’s a lot of energy, resources  adnd money WASTED!

          We agree to disagree. There’s nothing wrong with that.

        • Who has blatantly lied, cheated and swindled?  You are exaggerated the situation like Zambrano. 

          And watch yourself when you attack a person’s children or parenting ability.  You don’t know me and based on your comment, I’m glad for that.

    • I completely agree with you. I think if people want to look the other way about the laws that have been made by people that WE have elected than why don’t we just throw away all of our basic laws because that’s what the people want I guess. I support Zambrano in his efforts to make MLT a trustworthy place to live and if one takes a thorough look at the facts, Zambrano wasn’t the one who went to the State Liquor Board first so blaming him is just a cheap ploy to get Seaun elected. Let’s be adults here, people and handle this accordingly. If Big E doesn’t want to do the legal thing, that is their choice but they do also need to understand that because they are a business, they need to follow the laws they agreed to when they applied and bought their permit. 

  3. Speaking as an adult couple without children, the only reason to attend the TdT was to have a great local beer and listen to some local music. The booths are like any you might see any weekend of the year, the food – just not anything I would choose to eat.  Rides? not at my age.  Now I do not see any reason to attend. 

  4. Zambrano is just a whiney kid.  He wanted to cause controversy.  He’s done that.  now make sure he gets the hell out of office.  who the hell wants a whistle blower tryiing to control everything.  This sounds like the kind of guy, who probably wears whitey tighty’s and has never been laid and get’s mad at other people because we enjoy our lives!!   ZAMBRANO— S MY D

  5. The amount of fuss on the Red Onion’s Facebook page is
    embarrassing.  Uninformed people can
    blame whoever they want it.  By
    this article, it seems there were many factors at play and Zambrano just brought
    it to light… as a civil servant should.  
    And why, if Big E is still allowed to sell there, wouldn’t they?  Ellersick says he professional but won’t do it because he can’t do things the way he wants?

    It just shows that Richards is trying to make himself look better
    by playing on people/their emotions and by blaming his opponent.  He’s lifting himself up by pushing someone
    else down.   

    • So, Ellersick is going to take his beer and go home.  That’s a mature way to behave.  I don’t understand why he’s not going to sell the beer this year but plans to sell it next year.  What’s going to be different with the WSLCB rules in one year?  Let’s all grow up and accept what is and go on to have a nice Seafair sanctioned celebration.  Life is too short to spend what precious time we have together squabbling. 

      • I just reread the article.  You should, too. 

        Big E is pulling out because they cannot control the service, consumption and security for the event per the LCB.  You imply that Big E is throwing a fit in response to being enlightened about the rules (of which I’m sure there are many; too many that even the LCB can’t keep track of them let alond enforce as proven in the article).  The truth is that Big E is acting responsibly and making a business decision to take some time to think about the consequences to their business if non-employees work the TDT beer garden.  Understandably, the concern is probably of the worst case scenario where something happens (accident, DUI…) – what will people remember and who will get sued?  Big E not the volunteers, most likely. 

        If you were a business owner that provided a product for public consumption but were told that the rules of the governing authority didn’t allow you to participate in an event where your product can be sold and consumed, would you just say ok and let unkown volunteers/workers represent your product?  I doubt it.  If you did, then you won’t be in business long because you are careless and obviously don’t care about your business reputation or quality of product.

        I applaud Big E for stepping back to re-evaluate their business objectives and how they can participate to support a community and maintain their integrity.

  6. I agree 100% with Clementine’s statement.  The statements made by the Red Onion are not accurate and if one took the time to actually get all the facts and do some research they would see that as well.  It’s aggravating how one person with a few statements can change the mind set of a community.  Zambrano didn’t contact the Liquor Control Board until after a concerned citizen did.  A citizen of Mountlake Terrace had questions and asked them.  Simple as that.  It seems to me that Zambrano was trying to do some damage control instead of getting Big E’s 86ed.  This is why politics are ridiculous.  No one ever gives all the facts and when facts are stated…they inevitably get twisted.  So here’s a thought….Don’t get it TWISTED.

  7. I now understand why Big E’s owner Rick Ellersick pulled out. His employees did a great job making sure the Beer Garden was a safe, fun, and downright fun place to hang out for the last ten years: no obnoxious drunks, no fights, no DUIs. If the employees can’t volunteer this year, and if he can’t be responsible to maintain a great environment in addition to his great local beer, I don’t blame him for pulling out. His company’s reputation is important. He’s right, his name and his reputation is all he has. I’d pull out under the same circumstances, so my hat’s off to him.

    On another note, although I love The Red Onion and I love that Seaun Richards’s community involvement, it cracks me up that his name, “Seaun Richards owner [and whatever else it said because I can’t remember] of this establishment” is up on The Red Onion’s sign for all of the passers by to see. It’s transparent that he’s doing that for name recognition in the upcoming election and it makes me and my friends snicker whenever we see it.

  8. We all need to focus on the most important part of this news story, that being (You may be wondering what has changed from last year to this year and why Big E’s has been able to run the beer garden at Tour de Terrace for many years. According to Lt. Manoli, who reviewed the license application, the Liquor Control Board had realized that these type of violations had been slipping through the cracks and the Board recently revised questions on the application to bring these types of violations to light). And YES as a concerned citizen with a sense of honor I am wondering why this has been slipping through the cracks for MANY YEARS, all concerned citizens of MLT with a sense of honor should join Councilman John Zambrano and write to Lt. Manoli asking for ALL YEARS of the MANY YEARS to be investigated. Doing the honorable thing might not always be the most popular thing but it is the RIGHT THING to do !!!  

    • I looked up the contact info for Lt. Manoli.
      Lt. Richard ManoliEnforcement & Education Non-Retail Unit14900 Interurban Ave S  Ste 120Tukwila, WA  98168-4654Phone: 206-439-3736    Fax: 206-439-3700

    • If the LCB admits this type of thing has been slipping through the cracks, it would seem that this was recently brought to light to them.  It doesn’t appear that ANYONE was knowingly breaking the rules.  According to the LCB, Big E and the Tour de Terrace is not an isolated situation. 

      Rhetorical questions:  Of all the things that you are involved with, do you have EVERY rule committed to memory?  Can you say with 100% confidence that you have followed EVERY rule, known and unknown, in every event you have ever been involved with? If you say yes, you are kidding yourself and need a reality check.

      Back to COMMON SENSE, please.  If anyone, in this case Zambrano, felt there were truly concerning questions/issues about an event, in this case Tour de Terrace, it could have been handled much less publicly and much less disruptive and ended with the same results:  enlightenment and moving forward. 

      The only light this situation has shed is on Zambrano what a manipulative, self-serving person he must be.  His actions suggest TDT as being a bad thing, that bad people are involved and that complete and total negligence runs amcuck.  A 19 year tradition that has brought communities together and money into MLT has been, and if Zambrano continues this path of destruction, put at risk.  Anyone that has attended TDT, been involved with TDT on any level would know that all of that is FALSE.  Supposed issues could have been handled much more maturely, as earlier posts have stated lack of maturity on parties involved, rationally and less disruptive. 

      • First, laws are laws, and ignorance to the laws is never a winning defense.  It is the responsibility of the MLT Civil Servants to uphold the law, and the council member brought it to light as soon as he saw the discrepancy.  The reason for the law at this point is irrelevant. If the citizens of MLT feel strongly enough then start a petition to change the law instead of putting all the blame on the guy who pointed out that TDT is not in compliance.  At the moment he suspected a problem he was obligated to  investigate, anything shy of that is irresponsible and illegal in itself. 

        There is no enlightenment to seek out in this matter, it is a money issue, nothing else.  If Big E wanted to sell the beer at the full tax rate and not part of the non profit structure they could have pursued that avenue.  They made their decision and and they have every right to not participate.  Yes it sucks, but it is not the fault of the council member, this goes back to whoever made the mistake tin the first place.  Just because they got away with it in the past does not entitle them to continue to break the law. 

        Roy are right Melissa, no one knows all the laws and rules they must abide by, however at the moment this was discovered it became known to all, therefore must be enforced.  Please think long and hard about whether you still feel the council member was out of line by clarifying and bringing to light this issue.  Do you really want corrupt council members in charge of your city?  Honesty is a really rare thing in politics these days, and though this was an unpopular topic he did the RIGHT thing. 

        • Zambrano’s actions past and present are done out of spite.  He has been digging to find things wrong so that he can destroy them and in turn hurt the MLT community that he supposedly is watching out for.  If a rational person found something to be questionable or amiss, they would confront the issue/person in a courteous and professional manner, not immediately call the authorities.  What Zambrano did was simultaneous, giving no one a chance to look into things and make corrections if necessary.  Zambrano is a waste of resources on so many levels.

          So you make yourself sound like one of zero tolerance.  There is no enlightenment in your world?  Read all the facts.  Big E paid their taxes.  The waste of time investigation found NOTHING wrong with Big E and the taxes.  What Zambrano has single handedly done is cast enough doubt and point blank accusations (read his email to the LCB) to casue a respectable local business to withdraw from TDT.  Seaun’s post about Big E pulling out….is all based on FACT as stated in the MLT.News article.  “To Rick Ellerisck, owner of the brewery, there’s one reason that they won’t be at the festival this year: Mountlake Terrace City Councilmember John Zambrano”.  How is Seaun’s post NOT fact? 

          We could debate this all day long.  You support Zambrano’s underhanded tactics.  I support council members and potential council members that are honest, open book and truly have the best interest of the community in there heart/actions.  We agree to disagree.

    • Hey Madashell Person, I have a sense of honor too, but I’m sure as hell not going to join that trouble making goon John Zambrano in anything. He wasn’t doing anything honorable by making this stink. Big E obviously had no idea that violations were “slipping through the cracks.” As a concerned citizen, what I’m concerned with is the fact that John Zambrano likes to destroy what I’ve always considered good about MLT.

  9. Myself, I am getting really tired of the crap John Zambrano pulls. In regards to Big E pulling out of Tour de Terrace, John “insinuated that the proper taxes on the sale of beer may not have been paid.” After review by the LCB they found they have not had any problems with Big E. How would you feel if a statement like this is made and you knew you were the intended target? That’s John Z, sometimes he can be direct in his accusations and others, he lets his singers fly with no one knowing the real target except the person it’s directed at.

  10. Just a question, besides the Council member that brought this up, who watches/organizes Tour de Terrace? Shouldn’t they be accountable for non-compliance?  The Brewery did the right thing, so did John, the other speaking up regarding this doesn’t really matter. The name calling and mis-information is useless.

    What needs to be done is learn from this and bring the Big E back for next year. MLT needs to maintain a good sense of community, having Big E there helps to reinforce this.

    As far as the politics I would like to see from the Council members, what I and many others would like to hear, is what are the plans to bring more to the Tour? 

    Lastly quit dwelling on the negative, fix the problem, provide a solution and create enthusiasm for MLT’s Seafair event. There are a number of other cities that hold Seafair events and bring in more people, the more people that come to TdT, the more it benefits the MLT economy.

  11. I read, I commented and I voted.  People need to accept they did wrong, not do it again and go on.   I support John in his efforts to abide by the laws.  He’s not a mean spirited man but he has ethics which are seldom found today in most politicans or people in general for that matter.

  12. Dustin,
    please provide the reader more information or better indepth reporting versus the
    sensationalized tabloid style writing you currently do.   More meat & potatoes and less lard
    laced whip cream.   The story is missing a substantial amount of
    information to help any reader make an informed opinion about the issues at hand.  Thanks.

    • Thanks you for your comments. I think the story is pretty clear that it is based on interviews with Rick Ellersick, John Zambrano, Margaret Loiseau and Rick Manoli. I found out about this on Monday, July 18, and there were already many rumors going around about it, especially on Facebook.  If you (or anyone else) believes that I have misquoted or misrepresented what anyone said to me or if any of the facts are incorrect I am more than happy to correct the story. 

      I decided to run a story based upon these interviews and research I was able to do in order to get some information out there and stop the rumors from circulating. I believe I also made it clear that I had not interviewed Jerry Smith but intended to do so and there would be more to the story coming out soon. 

      Also, as you may know it can take a little while to receive documents and information from a Public Records Request. Be assured that I am dedicated to getting to the bottom of the matter and that the story above is not the end of it.

  13. Sidebar observation here… why are there only a couple of us willing to put our REAL identities on here during commenting where so many other hide behind a ‘guest’ logon or other random pseudonym?

    • Because some of us have experienced what it is like to be in Z-man’s sights before.  I’m still thinking about what my response (if any) to this whole mess is.

  14. Why is no one asking why the mayor Jerry Smith hasn’t had to be held accountable for any of the things that have gone on considering he is the one “in charge” or at least reaping the benefits from Tour de Terrace 

    • Amen! The mayor made a lot of effort to distance himself from the fray and yet still he’s got his hands and feet in the cookie jar. The citizens of MLT should have the facts behind his actions, what he did, what he knows and when everything took place. This story only serves to put head on the beer that clouds the content of the real Tour de Terrace fiasco.

  15. Ellersick’s story doesn’t pass the smell test. Blame the messenger, in this case Councilmember Zambrano for his reason for stepping aside from the Tour? Please, stick to beer if you must but stop with what would appear to be carrying the water for the Mayor by throwing aspersions elsewhere than where they rightly belong. I would hope that all councilmember’s had the courage as Zambrano does to address the issue of the taxes and non-profit status that Mayor Smith let expire and then hide from his actions. It’s a simple task to keep the corporate non-profit status current and not blow smoke in the face of councilmember’s or taxpayers to distract from being unable or unwilling to do the job the people elected you to do in the first place.

    Be accountable and be transparent. It’s our money.

    No, it would seem this is a game being orchestrated by Mayor Smith once the light has exposed his questionable behaviors which caused the Nile and now Big E to scurry away from the attention. Now it appears he’s engaging his supporters to attack the candidate that is leagues above the others vying for the position in qualifications, service to the people both militarily and to the community, a desire for transparency and accountability to the people, i.e. the citizens of Mountlake Terrace.

    Perhaps there are more skeletons in the Mayors closet than we or MLT news has yet to discover. Inquiring minds want to know.

    For my money, I want someone on the council that isn’t a ‘yes’ man or woman that will ask the tough questions and deal with the ramifications of the cause and effect of how decisions will affect our city and community at large; and that choice is to re-elect Councilmember John Zambrano.

    • Well put 1digger and that’s why I am running for council because it has gotten out of control with the total disregard of the peoples voice. I do plan on bringing back the trust and integrity back to Mountlake Terrace.  If you folks want to bring real leadership, then a vote for me will make that happen. Look up my story in the elections 2011 section and you can find out what I am about.


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