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Friday, 19 January 2018 12:18

West Michigan brewery seized by court for failing to pay judgment

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The 17th Circuit Court in Kent County ordered the seizure of Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery locations in Grand Rapids and Big Rapids over the company’s failure to pay a judgment in a 2017 court case. The 17th Circuit Court in Kent County ordered the seizure of Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery locations in Grand Rapids and Big Rapids over the company’s failure to pay a judgment in a 2017 court case. MIBIZ PHOTO

GRAND RAPIDS — A Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery location in Grand Rapids was shut down temporarily on Thursday upon the orders of the state of Michigan, MiBiz has learned.

The court-ordered property seizure stemmed from two related corporate entities failing to pay nearly $51,000 in judgments against them related to an October 2017 verdict in 17th Circuit Court in Kent County.

Michigan Court Officer Jose Ontiveros, who is assigned to the case, said on Thursday afternoon that attorneys for the involved parties had reached a “verbal agreement.” He said the location would now be allowed to reopen, but it’s unclear if that has happened. The court also issued an order to seize the Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery location in Big Rapids, but that order was not executed. 

Calls to the Grand Rapids location today went unanswered. Owner James Crank did not respond to multiple requests for comment at the time this report went to press.

In a Facebook post to a local craft beer group, owner Crank said he was “not sure” if the Grand Rapids location would reopen due to a pending sale of the building on 68th Street SW in Byron Township. He said in the post that he had been trying to sell the location for about a year.

According to court records, Grand Rapids-based Valley City Linen Co. sued Cranker’s for breach of contract and failing to pay for linen rentals it used in both restaurants as part of a five-year rental service agreement.

In the case, Valley City alleged that Cranker’s fell behind on its payments in 2016. Valley City stopped providing services to the company and filed a lawsuit in March of last year. When Cranker’s did not issue a timely response to the lawsuit, the court clerk entered a default judgment against the company on June 2.

In the lengthy Facebook post, Crank denies ever receiving the court documents.

The court held a bench trial on Oct. 2 to establish damages in the case, and ordered JJC Restaurant Corp. in Grand Rapids and JPE Restaurant Corp. in Big Rapids — both of which operate under the name Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery — to pay $50,897 in damages, attorney fees and court costs, according to court records. Attorneys for Cranker’s have filed an appeal.

State liquor license records show Crank as the sole stockholder of both corporate entities.

Attorney Tom Kuiper at Kuiper Orlebeke PC, who represented Valley City Linen, said the company continues to work through the legal process to resolve the case.

“Valley City Linen obtained two judgments against Crankers for debts owed and Valley City Linen intends to follow legal procedures to ensure that the judgments are satisfied,” Kuiper said in an email to MiBiz.

A review of Michigan Liquor Control Commission records for both Cranker’s locations shows a history of citations for various violations, including failure to show proof of alcohol server training, failing to pay beer excise taxes on time, and selling alcohol after failing to renew a liquor license.

In January 2017, the Grand Rapids location’s liquor license was suspended after the company failed to pay a fine on time related to a May 2016 violation in which it sold alcohol to a minor.

“We had an issue with our liquor license and had it temporarily suspended for serving beer to an underage customer. The problem was taken care of and we were able to get the license back,” according to a post on the company’s Facebook page at the time.

The seizure did not affect a Cranker’s location in Mt. Pleasant.

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CORRECTION: This story and headline have been updated to correct that the 17th Circuit Court in Kent County ordered the Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery location in Big Rapids to be seized, but that order was never executed. Michigan Court Officer Jose Ontiveros said he received a court order to seize the property, but never did because of ongoing negotiations between the parties. MiBiz regrets the error. 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to indicate the closures did not affect the Cranker’s location in Mt. Pleasant. 

Read 3840 times Last modified on Tuesday, 23 January 2018 17:36
Nick Manes

Staff writer

nmanes@mibiz.com

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