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Two Climate City Brewing employees face felony theft

Climate City Brewing, which revived the century-old former brewery building on G Street when it opened last year, allegedly has been victimized by two of its own, according to records obtained in Josephine County Circuit Court.

Michael B. Held, 37, former general manager, and his assistant Angela Ward, 34, face felony theft charges after an investigation revealed losses of $15,000 or more from sales over the past eight months.

Charges for both include computer crime and identity theft, according to court records.

They were led out of the brick building in handcuffs on May 9, and both were arraigned last week.

"These two people aren't going to bring Climate City down," said Stephen Baksay, local physical therapist, and one of Climate City's owners. "It's been a very negative experience, but in the long run we're going to be stronger for it."

Probable cause affidavits show losses of $14,000 attributed to Held, and $1,000 to Ward. Police dispatch records from the day of the arrests indicate it could be as high as $20,000.

Baksay said Held had been there since August, Ward not as long.

"In the restaurant industry this kind of activity happens quite often, unfortunately," Baksay said. "People are put in a position where a lot of cash passes through. The sad thing is, people charged with this kind of activity are threatening the livelihood of employees, putting employees at risk."

He said the Josephine County District Attorney's Office and Detective Archie Lidey of the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety helped guide the business through the investigation.

Baksay said Climate City is looking forward, and already has a new general manager, Eric Stark, formerly of Reno.

"We found somebody great," he said. "The support of the people of Grants Pass has been wonderful. We're happy with how the future is going to look."

Reach reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com.