HopCat owner files for bankruptcy ahead of June 13 reopening

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The parent company of HopCat, Stella’s Lounge and Grand Rapids Brewing Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring, but is vowing to reopen its bars and restaurants.

BarFly Ventures, LLC announced its plans Wednesday, saying its current debt is “untenable because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to other reasons.”

Founder Mark Sellers says the mandated closing of all restaurants to curb the spread of coronavirus led to a 100% drop in revenue for nearly three months.

“We had to fight to survive. We had to negotiate with a lot of our landlords and vendors. We had to deal with the bank. We were forced to lay off a lot of really good people to preserve cash. We got evicted from our Royal Oak location. We even had to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure our debt… But we survived,” he wrote in a message to patrons posted on Facebook.

Sellers says increased competition and “craft beer saturation” added to the company’s challenges before the pandemic.

“After an exhaustive examination of all options, we’ve determined that the Chapter 11 process is the best path forward to enable BarFly to focus on continued growth and transformation for the future,” he stated in a Wednesday news release.

The company says while it works through the bankruptcy process, it’s preparing all of its Michigan restaurants for a June 13 reopening, in addition to offering curbside order pickup. Restaurants in Lincoln, Nebraska and Indianapolis, Indiana will reopen June 22.

Sellers says the new restaurant protocol follows health and safety guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those measures include increased cleaning and sterilization and spacing out tables and chairs for social distancing. Patrons are asked to wear a mask.

During the bankruptcy process, BarFly Ventures says it will continue to honor gift cards and rewards programs and pay employees and vendors “in a timely fashion.” Sellers also says most employees will be going back to work.