Creditors sue, seek bankruptcy case over Williwaw work
A hip downtown bar might have been a building too far for the owners of Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse and nearby Anchorage restaurants, who are being asked to declare bankruptcy by a contractor suing over unpaid work on its building.
A state suit filed by Mantech Mechanical seeks nearly $700,000 from Fish or Cut Bait LLC as well as Hook, Line and Sinker Inc., the firms behind Humpy’s as well as nearby Flattop Pizza + Pool. The group also operates Williwaw, a three-level bar and restaurant renovated from the former location of Anchorage homeless children’s shelter Covenant House at 609 F Street.
Mantech also asked for bankruptcy proceedings to be started against Hook, Line and Sinker as a Chapter 7 liquidation in U.S. District Court. The group named creditors from Benchmark Construction and Arctic Refrigeration and AC.
Humpy’s owners also abruptly closed the SubZero Bistro and Microlounge across F Street from Williwaw in 2016, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
According to the Nov. 14 suit, the F Street building was acquired by Kasatochi LLC, which is 80 percent owned by the Salamatof Native Association with 10 percent each owned by the Humpy’s group – Fish or Cut Bait LLC – and the Mark Pfeffer Family Trust. The company borrowed $5.2 million from First National Bank Alaska to convert the building into Williwaw’s 15,000 square feet of bar, dining and event spaces.
Benchmark was hired as the general contractor, with Mantech working as a subcontractor on mechanical engineering as well as plumbing, heating and ventilation systems.
A 2016 property assessment of the Williwaw site, for which Fish or Cut Bait pays Kasatochi about $26,000 a month in rent, valued it at just over $3 million. According to the plaintiffs, roughly $288,000 in construction costs remain unpaid.
“Over the past 20 months [Mantech and Benchmark] have been attempting to collect the unpaid balance owned by Fish or Cut Bait LLC,” attorneys wrote in the suit. “In the past 20 months no amounts have been paid by or received from Fish or Cut Bait LLC to reduce the construction debt.”
In addition, a promissory note issued by Humpy’s owners – based on the value of a liquor license issued to closed Muldoon restaurant Club 210 – outlines the repayment of a March 2016 loan by Mantech of $400,000, along with 8 percent annual interest, by September 2017. The plaintiffs claim no attempt has been made to sell the liquor license.
A March 15, 2017 letter to Mantech from Fish or Cut Bait member Dylan Buchholdt, one of the defendants named in the suit, acknowledges the construction debt but notes that the company believes “a majority of the work carried out by Mantech constitutes core and shell work and is subject to payment by the building owner.”
“We appreciate your willingness to work with us on this outstanding balance,” Buchholdt wrote. “We will provide you with a proposal for payment no later than 90 days after the date of this letter. In the interim we will work with the building owner and within our ownership group to see what we can do to pay Mantech off as soon as possible.”
Buchholdt wasn’t immediately available for comment on the lawsuit at midday Tuesday.
The Mantech suit seeks repayment of the promissory note and its interest from Humpy’s owners including Fish or Cut Bait, or an initial payment of $200,000 plus confirmation that the remainder will be paid by March 2019. In addition, Mantech wants the unpaid $288,000 in construction debt plus interest from Fish or Cut Bait until that amount is paid in full.
Tuesday afternoon, Humpy's general manager, Pete Burns, released the following statement:
"Humpy's acknowledges recent public reports regarding pending legal issues brought on behalf of creditors associated with the Williwaw project. We are working internally to resolve these issues and wish the public to know that we are an will remain open. We are actively negotiating an amicable non-judicial resolution of the petition. Thank you for your continued support."
Editor's note: An initial version of this story incorrectly stated that Humpy's had declared bankruptcy instead of being asked to declare bankruptcy.
Janis Harper contributed information to this story.
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