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June 18, 2004

Big Buck Brewery files for bankruptcy protection

Two Michigan restaurants will remain open

By
Record-Eagle staff writer


      GAYLORD - One of northern Michigan's pioneer brew pub and restaurant operations has filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court.
      Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse Inc. announced this week that it had filed Chapter 11 proceedings in Detroit for its restaurant/brew pub operations in Gaylord and Auburn Hills. The company wants to restructure more than $12 million in debt owed to an acquisition company in Grosse Pointe, which purchased the debt from the Wayne County Employees' Retirement System.
      "The Chapter 11 filing was precipitated by declining market conditions and excessive debt," said Mark Provenzano, Big Buck chairman and chief executive officer. "We will now have the flexibility to restructure our debt and restructure our balance sheet."
      The Chapter 11 filing allows the company to continue operating the two restaurant/breweries while it deals with creditors. A repayment plan for creditors is due in early October.
      "The good thing is that it's going to continue to be open and operating," Big Buck spokesman Walter Kraft said. "You're not going to see any changes in operations...it's business as usual."
      Employees will be paid their normal salaries and benefits will not be interrupted, Big Buck officials said.
      Two years ago, the company received a $5 million letter of credit from the Wayne County Employees' Retirement System to secure a loan from the United Bank and Trust Co. The loan came due in March. The pension plan also loaned Big Buck $7.5 million in early 2000 and another $1.5 million later that year, and it helped Big Buck pay off construction loans and property taxes.
      Provenzano succeeded Tony Dombroski in May as the company's chairman and chief executive officer. Dombroski had taken over in February of 2003 for Big Buck co-founder Bill Rolinski.
      The bankruptcy does not involve the company's restaurant in Grapevine, Texas outside Dallas, which opened in August 2000 as a joint venture with Bass Pro Outdoor World.
      In September, Big Buck closed a 250-seat restaurant/brew pub in Grand Rapids that had opened in 1997.
      Gaylord was the home of Big Buck's first restaurant, which opened in 1995.
     

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