Former MLB All-Star Sues OB Noodle House Owner Over Alleged Skrewball Whiskey Deal

August 7, 2019

Former Major League Baseball All-Star pitcher David Wells has filed a lawsuit against the founder of San Diego's popular OB Noodle House for allegations that include breach of contract. The purported hand-shake deal was to include equity ownership in the Ocean Beach-based company behind Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey.

Last year, Cambodian-born Steven Yeng - who owns OB Noodle House, Bar 1502, and recently unveiled The Holding Company, all in San Diego's Ocean Beach neighborhood - launched his own bottled peanut butter whiskey based on a popular signature shot he has long-served at his restaurants. With the help of his wife Brittany, Yeng released Skrewball Whiskey, a 70-proof bottled version of his cult creation. Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey is now rapidly expanding in popularity and has already received a double gold award for Best Flavored Whiskey at the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition in 2018. The bottled spirit can be found at many area liquor stores and bars, and the company is gearing up for a national expansion.

Based on the civil complaint filed with the San Diego County Superior Court on May 31, 2019 (which even mentions David Wells' famous perfect game), the story goes like this: Longtime MLB All-Star pitcher David "Boomer" Wells, who grew up in San Diego's Ocean Beach and even served as the head baseball coach at Point Loma High School for a few years until retiring last summer - was introduced to Steven & Brittany Yeng by Noah Tafolla, a local television personality who hosts a program called Dining Out with Noah about the restaurant scene in San Diego. Around June 2017, Wells met with Steve Yeng and Tafolla at OB Noodle House to discuss a potential partnership with the company that would become Skrewball Spirits LLC. As a partner in the business venture, Wells would assist in promoting Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, including through his "substantial network of professional athletes, celebrities, television personalities, and influential individuals." 

Yeng initially offered Wells a four percent ownership interest in Skrewball in exchange for an equity contribution of $35k for each percentage of ownership interest (a total of $140,000 for the four percent ownership interest). Yeng allegedly sweetened the deal by offering an additional 2% interest (totalling 6%) for the total $140k payment. Without entering into a formal written contract, Wells tendered the $140,000 equity contribution to the Yengs. Wells alleges he put forth efforts to promote Skrewball, including making arrangements with event hosts to serve the whiskey in the hospitality tents at functions, taking photos with celebrities holding bottles of the whiskey, and promoting the product through his network. Wells also states he attended meetings with distributors, including meetings to discuss expanding the distribution of Skrewball to Canada and Japan, and also provided valuable input to the Yengs regarding product design, development, marketing, and strategies. At this point, Wells is seeking specific performance (and other damages) in the form of memorialization of his 6% ownership in Skrewball Spirits LLC and all of the benefits of ownership in the growing company.

"We recently received Mr. Wells’ complaint and, at this time, do not believe his claims have any merit," commented a representative of Skrewball Spirits through the company's publicist. "We are proud of our continued commitment to our community and the brand we are building. We take any matters that question our values or aim to tarnish our reputation very seriously and are working closely with our legal team. We look forward to resolving this case through the judicial process, during which we will vigorously defend the company and its founders against these allegations.”

Like Wells, Noah Tafolla also filed a similar breach of contract suit against the Yengs and Skrewball Spirits, which was met with a cross complaint by the Yengs alleging Tafolla defrauded them.

"This case is not about Skrewball Spirits allegedly reneging on a partnership agreement with Tafolla and denying him a 4% ownership interest in Skrewball Spirits and its peanut butter whiskey product (known as Skrewball), as Tafolla alleged in his Complaint," reads the first paragraph of the Introduction in the Yengs' cross complaint. "Rather, this case is about a parasitic individual, claiming to be a local celebrity with important 'industry' contacts - a claim that stands in stark contrast to him being star struck when he met Daksan “Steve” Yeng, calling him the local celebrity -that misrepresented himself as a potential investor in Skrewball Spirits, and then leveraged that position to extract valuable goods and services from Skrewball Spirits under false pretenses for his own purposes, thereby unjustly enriching himself at their expense."

Another individual, Adam Purcell, is also suing the Yengs and Skrewball Spirits, claiming that he entered into a "50%-50%" agreement with Steve Yeng to develop and sell "liquor products". Purcell's complaint alleges a written partnership agreement was entered into in early 2015 and the company initially planned to create and sell an infused-sake product line "as well as other liquor products."

We reached out directly to Steven Yeng, David Wells, and Noah Tafolla seeking comment for this story but did not receive a response by the time of publication. For more information, see screenshots of the Wells complaint below, as well as the cross complaint filed by the Yengs against Tafolla.

This is a developing story: We will update this post as we learn more.