Budbreak has come and gone, but a temporary bad taste was left in the mouth of a local restaurant owner over an unauthorized use of electricity from her business during the annual festival.
What was first suspected to be wrongdoing on the part of Budbreak organizers by one of the restaurant operators — who had a previous problem regarding the event — was later traced to a mistake by a local telephone service provider.
The issue relates to the providing of Wi-Fi service during Budbreak on April 30 in downtown Mount Airy, which enabled electronic devices to be connected to a wireless Internet network. This allowed vendors of the festival that celebrates the area wine and craft beer industries to scan credit cards of attendees making purchases while also accommodating other online needs of festival visitors.
But the only problem was, no one asked the co-owners of Leon’s Burger Express, Paul and Vickie Riekehof, for permission to plug a router into an electrical outlet at the rear of the building to power Wi-Fi service for the gathering. Leon’s is located on North Main Street in the heart of the Budbreak area and has been in operation for 28 years.
Nor was permission granted to install a receiver needed for Wi-Fi atop a structure adjoining Leon’s, Vickie Riekehof added Thursday.
Prior to getting the story behind the connection to her business, Reikehof shared her concern. “I’m mad,” she said upon discovering the router. “It’s very disrespectful.”
Riekehof had a previous problem involving Budbreak in 2013. She paid $100 ahead of that event for what the longtime restaurant owner thought was a ticket for a drawing on a car, a 2013 limited-edition Fiat.
After her name was chosen in the raffle, Riekehof then was told that in order to win the vehicle she had to throw a Frisbee through both windows of it, a distance of about 90 feet — on a windy day. No mention of this had been made when she bought the ticket.
That episode led to David Chaloupka, a man who ran the raffle for Budbreak, being arrested for obtaining property by false pretense, a felony. Chaloupka received a suspended sentence and was put on probation upon his conviction in June 2015.
Company admits error
Based on that history, Riekehof first suspected that Budbreak organizers were responsible.
As it turns out, the problem stems from an error by Surry Telephone Membership Corp., which provided the Wi-Fi connection and installed the equipment needed, including small repeaters in the festival area.
“It was a mistake on our part and we’re the ones to blame,” Curtis Taylor, chief executive officer of Surry Telephone, said Thursday.
“I think in all honesty, it was an honest mistake on our part,” Taylor added.
He explained that the company thought it was hooking up to the building of an existing Surry Telephone customer, but mistakenly did so at the Leon’s site.
“I think there was some confusion about which building,” the CEO acknowledged. “We didn’t realize.”
One reason for this involved the fact Surry Telephone Membership Corp. was supplying the Budbreak Wi-Fi service for the first time, after two years in which CenturyLink did so.
“We were just trying to help the community out, and got caught in the middle, to be honest,” Taylor said.
He mentioned that once the problem was discovered, everything was disconnected from Leon’s on Wednesday.
Taylor said the electricity used is comparable to that needed to charge a cell phone. “So it’s not a huge amount,” he said.
However, the Surry Telephone official said the company would try to make things right with Riekehof. “We’ll do what we need to do to satisfy her.”
Later Thursday, Taylor met with Riekehof to iron out the situation and the latter said afterward she was happy with the outcome and not upset with Budbreak organizers.
Before she learned festival officials were not to blame and hadn’t OK’d the Wi-Fi connection, Riekehof had said the use of electricity from Leon’s during the most recent Budbreak — which is thought to be relatively negligible — was not the big issue.
“It’s more the principle, that they didn’t ask me,” she said of the party responsible. “If they had asked me, I probably would have volunteered it (the use of the outlet).” In Riekehof’s mind, what happened otherwise was “stealing.”
“Nobody ever asked me — I had no clue,” she said.
Festival head unaware
Innocence on the part of Budbreak — which is sponsored by the Mount Airy Rotary Club as a fundraiser for various charities — was confirmed Thursday by Bob Meinecke, the Rotary’s director of Budbreak. Meinecke said the problems with the Wi-Fi connection was unforeseen from his vantage point.
“We just asked for service,” Meinecke said of Budbreak organizers having Surry Telephone provide the Wi-Fi capability for the event. “We didn’t know how they go about it or anything else.”
Meinecke said he would have figured that obtaining permission from property owners or any other preliminary installation steps would be handled by the company.
“We asked for service from a provider,” he said. “As far as I was concerned, it was a non-issue.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.