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Lawsuit: Wine Expert Lashed Out At Woman After Bad Yelp Review

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A war of words on the Internet has now culminated in a lawsuit.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Julie Mann reports, it all started with the purchase of a Groupon deal for a food and wine pairing class at Bottled Grapes, at 3332 W. Foster Ave. in the Albany Park neighborhood. But the deal did not indicate where the class would be held.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Julie Mann reports

Cecelia Groark says she e-mailed the owner of Bottled Grapes, internationally-known wine expert Krunch Kretschmar, to find out the location. Kretschmar called and told her that she had not replied to an earlier e-mail, so she had given her seat at the class away.

On Nov. 16, Groark posted a one-star review of Bottled Grapes on Yelp.

“I never received the email nor a courtesy call to confirm that I was attending, he just gave my seat away,” she wrote on Nov. 16. “I’m very unhappy with the customer service and like everyone else – it’s very hard to even schedule a class as they are always ‘sold out.’ I’m extremely frustrated and would not recommend anyone buy this in the future.”

Kretschmar left a rebuke in response to Groark’s review, which is still viewable on Yelp. He told her that she and a friend were sent e-mails nine days before the class and ignored them, but didn’t seem to have a problem corresponding with him through the same e-mail address, “which only shows your character.”

“You could have signed up for another class, But instead you decided to Blast me on YELP,” he wrote. “Sorry you felt that way, But it is better because these classes are for ADULTS ONLY and you clearly have shown you’re not one.”
But Groark claims that wasn’t all the action Kretschmar took.

She alleges that Kretschmar established a blog in Groark’s name on Nov. 17, and e-mailed it to her stating, “Now every time a company for a job or someone searches YOU on google they will read my side of the story.”

The suit claims the blog Kretschmar created and published stated the following: “Cecelia troubles began when she started Embezzling from her last employer to support her drug addiction. While her treatment in the Cook County jail did little to help her, she is continuing to fight her demons everyday. Now turning to the Oldest profession to gain the funds need to support her habits, she is now trying to turn a new leaf. We wish her well.”

Groark has never met Kretschmar, who the suit claims, posted the blog to convince Groark to remove her Yelp review and to embarrass, harass, and ridicule her.

The suit claims Groark suffered severe emotional distress and hired a lawyer who sent Kretschmar a cease and desist letter, which requested the immediate removal of the posting, a public written contraction and for Kretschmar to stop making any further libelous statements about Groark.

Kretschmar called Groark’s lawyer, Nov. 21, 2011 and said he would remove his posting if Kretschmar would remove her Yelp review of Bottled Grapes, the suit said.

The suit claims that Groark, a University of Illinois honors graduate, had her professional standing in the advertising industry injured as well as her good name.

The four-count suit claims defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It seeks a jury trial, more than $150,000 in compensatory damages, more than $500,000 in punitive damage, courts costs and attorney fees.

Kretschmar could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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