Category Archives: small business debtor cases

Avoiding Emergency Bankruptcy Filings

It was the day before Thanksgiving.  A friend of mine called me in a panic.   She received a notification that her bank account was frozen by a creditor; she was to get a direct deposit of her salary in the next 2 days, which was two weeks before Christmas.  She needed to file bankruptcy fast in order to trigger the automatic stay (legal principle that means no creditor can take action to harm you).

I stayed up until midnight that day in order to get the case filed for her.  Her business had gone bad and this was the fallout from it.

Often, bankruptcy cases are filed on an emergency basis. In many instances, time may be of the essence and you need to file the case immediately (e.g. a creditor  has a judgment against you and has sent the Sheriff to your home or business; you have received a notice of garnishment of your wages or bank account by a taxing body).  If this firedrill can be avoided, it should be.

Rushing into a case is pretty much never a good idea.   Filing the petition on an emergency basis only increases the costs of your case and there may not be enough time to research potential issues that may arise during the course of your case.   You may omit important creditors.  You may omit assets.  If the schedules are not accurate,  you will need to amend them and that costs more money to do.  Substantial, repeated amendments do not leave favorable impressions upon the U.S. Trustee or the Ch. 7 Trustee.

A debtor is permitted to file a barebones “emergency “bankruptcy petition together with a list of 20 largest creditors. The full set of schedules must be submitted within 14 days, unless extended.

Regardless of whether the case is an emergency filing or not, if you are an individual, you MUST complete pre-bankruptcy filing credit counseling course at least 24 hours before any case is filed.

BOTTOM LINE:

  • Talk to an attorney.  He or she can give you the questionnaire you need to fill out well ahead of time. He or she will also give you a list of documents you will need You can start gathering that info.  If the case is billed hourly, you will save yourself money by gathering up this information rather than having a paralegal do it.
  • Pre-bankruptcy planning is always advisable for any individual or business.  You don’t want to throw good money after bad (meaning you don’t want to pay down debt that ultimately may be discharged). You don’t want to make preferential or fraudulent transfers.    Often, there are non-bankruptcy options, particularly for businesses (but that can be a topic for another blog post).

DISCLAIMER:  This does  not constitute legal advice.  This post does not create an attorney client relationship.  Consultant an attorney for more information re: this topic.

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WV Transport Company, Medford Trucking, LLC, runs out of road and seeks Chapter 11 protection

By: Matthew B. Smith, Law Clerk

 

Medford Trucking, LLC filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on June 27th, 2014.  The case has been assigned to the Honorable Robert G. Pearson under case number 2:14-bk-20354 .

heavy-truck-bigDebtor claims assets of less than $50,000 with liabilities of less than $50,000.  However the enumerated claims exceed $1 million.  Among the debtor’s 19 creditors are Petroleum Products, Inc., American Express, Bank of America, and several other companies and law firms.  Debtor is represented by Brian R. Blickenstaff of Turner & Johns, PLLC from Charleston, West Virginia.

Debtor is a transport company that was founded in 2001 and headquartered in Charleston, West Virginia.  Debtor has operated as many as 82 tractor-trailer rigs, and employed as many as 160 drivers.  Debtor carries a USDOT Number permitting it to haul non-hazardous materials within the state of West Virginia.  Debtor specializes in light freight and coal hauling.

DragonFire, Inc. Running Out of Breath as it Files Chapter 11

By: Justin A. Saporito, MAZURKRAEMER Law Clerk

DragonFire, Inc. filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 25th, 2013.  The petition was filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and has been assigned case number 2:13-bk-24517.  Debtor’s Disclosure Statement, Balance Sheet, Declaration of Schedules, and other documents were due by November 8th, 2013.  For a complete list of the documents due please refer to the document summary.1366998187

Debtor is the corporate entity for DragonFire Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar located at 1500 Washington Rd. in the Gallery Mall in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  As the name suggests, DragonFire specializes in hibachi and sushi.  For those unfamiliar with hibachi, it is a rectangular Japanese style barbecue grill.  Customers often sit at a counter that spans three sides of the grill.  The chef stands at the fourth side and prepares the meal (which typically consists of fried rice, vegetables, and various meats) with much fanfare.   DragonFire also boasts a robata grill, a traditional Japanese slow grilling method. For more information about DragonFire, you can visit their website here.

Debtor has declared between $50k and $100k in assets with between $500k and $1 million in liabilities with approximately 20 creditors listed in the petition.  Debtor is represented by Donald R. Calaiaro of Calaiaro  & Corbett, P.C.

Philadelphia’s Marathon Grill Hits “The Wall” with a Chapter 11

By: Justin A. Saporito, MAZURKRAEMER Law Clerk

The entities in charge of the 1818 Market Street location for the Marathon Grill Philadelphia restaurant chain, 1818 Market Street Marathon Grill, Inc. and its general partner 1818 Market Street Marathon Grill Associates , filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) on October 9, 2013.  1818 Market Street Marathon Grill, Inc. is the corporate entity for the 1818 Market Street location and has been assigned to the Honorable Judge Magdeline D. Coleman under case number 2:13-bk-18861.  1818 Market Street Marathon Grill Associates, the partnership in charge of the location filed separately and has been assigned to the Honorable Judge Eric L. Frank under case number 2:13-bk-18863.  (Please click the hyperlinks for docket summaries).  Motions for Joint Administration of both cases were filed by each entity on October 9, 2013.  The debtors listed the same creditors with the exception that 1818 Market Street Marathon Grill, Inc. also lists NNN 1818 Market, LLC, the building management company in charge of 1818 Market St.

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The Marathon Grill began as a 10-seat hamburger restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia in 1984.  It eventually grew into a six location restaurant chain before shrinking back down to operating three locations at 1818 Market St., 19th & Spruce St., and 16th & Sansom St.  The bankruptcies affect the 1818 Market St. location, the largest of the three restaurants.  The filings were made in response to learning that the landlord intended to take possession of the restaurant space over an ongoing dispute over unpaid back rent and fees of approximately $540,000.

1818 Market Street Marathon Grill Associates declared assets between $500,000 and $1 million with liabilities between $100,000 and $500,000.  1818 Market Street Marathon Grill, Inc. declared assets between $50,000 and $100,000 with liabilities between $1 and $10 million.  The debtors entities are represented by Aris J. Karalis and Robert W. Seitzer of Maschmeyer Karalis P.C.  The bankruptcies do not affect the other Marathon Grill locations and the debtors have pledged that the 1818 Market St. location will remain open during the bankruptcy proceedings.

Salene: In my younger years as a lawyer at Weir & Partners LLP in Philadelphia (2002-2004), I used to grab many late dinners at the Marathon Grill location at Sansom Street.   It was hip, for sure.   What is the formula for sustainability in the restaurant industry?

Inside the Trenches of a Chapter 11: The Firehose of the First 30 Days

fire-hydrant-flushing    The first 30 days of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case often are like water spewing violently out of a fire hydrant.  Fast.   Furious.  Urgent.  Many issues being thrown at the Debtor, its employees, and its lawyers at one time.

According to the Pre-Bankruptcy Planning for the Commercial Reorganization: A Brief Guide for the CEO, CFO/COO, General Counsel and Tax Advisor, written by the Reorganization and Restructuring Group of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, LLP (2nd edition, 2008), a whopping 83 percent of chapter 11 reorganizations that are filed generally “die on the vine” and are never confirmed.

I purchased this Brief Guide at the American Bankruptcy Institute that I attended this past Spring and I thought I would write a few blog posts integrating my experience with the concise content of the book.  As set forth on Appendix A to the Guide, generally certain matters must be addressed within the first 30 days of a case.

  • Petition filed
  • Filing of list of 20 largest creditors
  • Applications for retention of professionals (attorneys, accountants, turnaround professionals, valuation specialists, real estate brokers).  A Debtor cannot pay a professional unless the retention of the firm is first approved by the Judge and the professional files a fee application on the docket, to which parties may review and/or object.
  • Filing of ”first day” motions (seeking authority to pay wages, use pre-petition bank accounts, pay deposits for utilities, use of cash collateral, payment of interim compensation to professionals)
  • Filing of schedules of assets and liabilities and statement of financial affairs.  Getting correct addresses and dollar amounts owed for every single creditor often is a daunting task.  Once the Schedules are filed, a creditor matrix is generated. The Bankruptcy Court and parties in interest use this address list to mail or “serve” important pleadings in the case. If the matrix is enormous, certain limited servicing lists can be authorized by the Court. In mega-cases, servicing agents are employed by the Debtor to handle only this aspect of the case, i.e., proper service.
  • Filing of Corporate Resolution authorizing the Chapter 11 filing
  • Negotiation of debtor in possession financing
  • Hearing on use of cash collateral and adequate protection
  • Negotiation with trade creditors regarding reclamation claims and/or reestablishment of trade terms.

The first few weeks of a case can be exhausting and dramatic.  Often, by the time a petition is filed, a debtor runs out of money and payroll has not been paid (therefore employees are angry and morale is low), bank accounts frozen, the utilities have been shut off, and/or the front doors have been padlocked by a creditor.   Once a case is filed, a creditor may immediately file a motion to dismiss the case.

The filing of the petition and related schedules requires a financial autopsy of a business and all of its related entities. In order to avoid confusion down the road, Debtor’s counsel should try to obtain as much factually accurate information as possible during this time. The process requires persistence, diligence and coordination with the Debtor’s employees, who basically become your co-workers for as long as the case is open, which could be 18 months or longer.

During this critical time, management and key employees must be counseled regarding what to do and not do, now that the actions of the Debtor are under close scrutiny by not only a Judge but also a U.S. Trustee as well as the creditor body. Employees should be clear regarding what transfers may or may not be made without court approval.  Also, at the same time, the U.S. Trustee’s Office dictates that a debtor comply with its financial reporting requirements (hence the required “Monthly Operating Report”), and the filing of insurance and bank account information.  Lack of compliance may lead to a dismissal of the case or a conversion to a Chapter 7.  Often the debtor must close pre-petition bank accounts and open new ones.

Keeping all constituencies informed is an important part of the role of Debtor’s counsel.  Creditors may include key lenders and critical vendors who will want to know what the turnaround strategy is for the company. Once creditors receive the “Notice of Suggestion of Bankruptcy”, they too will be scurrying around to hire bankruptcy lawyers if the size of their claims warrants such an expense.

Stonefront Witch Way Inn Files for Chapter 11

BY: Katie Imler, Law Clerk

On July 26, 2013 , TAM of Allegheny LLC d/b/a Stonefront Witch Way Inn filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the Western District of Pennsylvania (assigned No. 13-23143-GLT). The Stone Front Witch Way Inn, located at 2827 California Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, was a local café and bar that was padlocked by police on June 28, 2013 for not paying the Allegheny County drink taxes totaling more than $22,390. The Allegheny County Treasurer, John Weinstein, has been cracking down on businesses that are not paying the alcoholic beverage tax.

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The case has been assigned to the Honorable Judge Gregory L. Taddonio. Norma Hildenbrand has filed an Notice of Appearance and Request for Notice on behalf of the United States Trustee. A summary of the docket can be found here.

The Debtor listed $50,000-$100,000 in Assets and $0-$50,000 in Liabilities, which are primarily business debts. Although there are less than 50 creditors, the top creditors holding unsecured claims include: Allegheny County ($21,864), BMI ($658.07), Chase Bank ($2,723.39), Dietz Electronics, Inc. ($438.98), IRS ($8,058.44), Joseph J. Brunner, Inc. ($407.80), and Trudy L. Schmitt, President of TAM of Allegheny LLC. All Schedules and Attorney Disclosures are due on August 9, 2013. The Chapter 11 Plan and Disclosure Statements are due November 25, 2013. However, the Government Proof of Claims Bar Date is set for January 22, 2014.

The Debtor is represented by J. Michael Baggett of McCann Garland Ridall & Burke, 11 Stanwix Street, Suite 1030, Pittsburgh PA, 15222. Jodi L. Hause filed a Notice of Appearance on July 29, 2013 to represent Creditor Duquesne Light Company. A Status Conference will be held on October 20, 2013 at 10:00am.

Duke Investments LLC Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

coffee-shop-business-plan            On June 12, 2013, Duke Investments, LLC, of  300 Tarentum Bridge Road, New Kensington, PA 15068, filed a voluntary  Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Case No. 13-22509.   The Debtor is owned by John Coutlakis and John Hareras.

The case was designated a “small business case” pursuant to 11 U.S. C 101(51(D).  The summary of schedules discloses assets worth about $41,900 and debts totaling $399,591, most of which consisted of taxes ($190,000 to the IRS and $85,000 to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue).  The Debtor also scheduled several unsecured debt obligations to WesBanco and First Commonwealth Bank.

From the list of the Debtor’s executory contracts, it appears as though this Debtor operated several coffee shops in the area, Robinson Court, The Frick Building, and Bridgeville.

The Debtor is represented by Mr. Richard R. Tarantine, Esquire, 437 Grant Street,  Suite 416, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, 412-321-5229, Email: rrt@tarantinelaw.com.  Mr. Tarantine disclosed an hourly rate of $250/hour and a pre-petition compensation around $8,000.

The docket can be found here.

StonePepper’s Grill in Robinson Twp. files for Chapter 11

Settlers Ridge No. 3, L.P. files for Chapter 11

By Katie Imler, Law Clerk

On May 13, 2013, StonePepper’s Grill, formally known as Settlers Ridge No. 3, L.P., of 1738 North Highland Road, Pittsburgh, PA  15241 filed a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, assigned Case No. 13-22082-CMB. The case has been assigned to the Honorable Judge Carlota M. Bohm.

 Stonepepper Grill's LogoStonePepper’s Grill is a restaurant that serves brick-oven pizza and won the 2012 Best Burger in Upper St. Clair Contest. The restaurant chain has three (3) locations in Upper Saint Clair, Mars, and Robinson Township. The only location effected by this filing is the Robinson Township location. Counsel for the Debtor is Robert O. Lampl, located at 960 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Lampl’s disclosed hourly rate is $400/hour.

A summary of the docket for the case can be viewed here.

The Debtor has elected to be considered a “small business debtor, ” defined under Bankruptcy Code § 101(51D)(A) as a person engaged in commercial or business activities who as of the date of petition filing or order of relief has an aggregate non-contingent liquidated secured and unsecured debts in an amount not more than $2,000,000.00 (excluding debts owed to 1 or more affiliates or insiders). See also Bankruptcy Code § 1116. The bankruptcy filing showed liabilities and assets between $100,000.00 -$500,000.00. The Debtor listed the largest unsecured debts as $93,940.00 in Employer Withholding, $78,775.00 in Loans to owner Jeff Joyce, $77,535.00 in PA Sales Tax, and $38,465.00 in Business Debt to CRK Management LLC, who also employs Jeff Joyce. It also has a Business Debt of $77,613.00 payable to Settlers Ridge Leased, LP.

      A hearing will take place on June 25, 2013 in regards to confirmation of employing Debtor’s counsel. The Chapter 11 Small Business Plan and Disclosure Statement are due November 12, 2013.

Bankruptcy Docket Beat: Ashland, KY’s River Cities Glass & Construction Files for Chapter 11 in WV

On May 2, 2013, River Cities Glass & Construction, LLC, a glass and glazing contractors company, located at 4750 Winchester Avenue, Ashland, KY 41101 filed a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of West Virginia (Huntington), assigned case No. 3:13-bk-30226 (RGP).  The case was assigned to the Honorable Judge Ronald G. Pearson.  See docket here.  William Cox signed the Debtor’s Schedules as President of the Debtor.

The Debtor is represented by Mitchell Lee Klein of the Klein Law Office, 3566 Teays Valley Road, Hurricane, WV 25526.  Klein’s disclosed a retainer of $5,000 and an hourly rate of $200/hour.

Chihuly            The Debtor elected to be considered a “small business debtor” pursuant to Bankruptcy Code Section 1116.   Its Chapter 11 Plan is due in 6 months, or by October 29, 2013.  Its Disclosure Statement is also due on October 29, 2013.   The Debtor listed liabilities of $159,936.01 and assets under $50,000 with less than 50 creditors.  Simultaneously with its voluntary petition, the Debtor filed an initial operating report and an application to employ an attorney.  Because this is a “small debtor case”, in addition to filing a petition, schedules and a statement of financial affairs, the Debtor is required to also submit a balance sheet, statement of operation, and a cash flow statement, as well as a federal tax return.

New Bankruptcy Code Section 1116  imposes duties on a small business debtor beyond not required of other Chapter 11 debtors, beginning with the filing of the petition.  Under § 1116(1), the debtor must attach to its petition (or in an involuntary case, file within seven days after the date of the order for relief) either (a) its most recent balance sheet, statement of operations, cash flow statement and federal income tax return or (b) a statement made under oath that such documents have not been prepared and that such tax return has not been filed.

We found this listing on the salespider website for the Debtor; we are not certain when it was ever initially listed.  The listing stated that the company has about 7 employees and estimated yearly revenue of $1,200,000 and that the Debtor’s SIC Code is 5231.  This industry consists of establishments engaged in selling primarily paint, glass, and wallpaper, or any combination of these lines, to the general public.  While these establishments may sell primarily to construction contractors, they are known as retail in the trade.  Establishments that do not sell to the general public or are known in the trade as wholesale are classified in the wholesale trade industries.   See SIC Code article here.

Bankruptcy Docket Beat: Philadelphia’s Mike’s Open Face Breakfast Files for Chapter 11

On April 23, 2013, Debtor Mike’s Open Face Breakfast, Inc. openfaceof 107 W. Chelten Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19144 filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), Case No. 13-13583-elf.  Debtor’s counsel is Hae Yeon Baik, of Baik & Associates, PC, 2333 Fairmount Avenue,1st Floor Left, Philadelphia, PA 19130.  The case has been assigned to Honorable Chief Judge Eric L. Frank.  The Debtor’s assets are  less than $50,000 and the liabilities are less than $50,000.   The Debtor has yet to file a full set of schedules and a statement of financial affairs.  The Debtor will have 15 days from the Petition Date in which to do so, unless the Debtor’s counsel seeks and extension of such a deadline.

A summary of the docket for this Chapter 11 can be viewed here.

Mike’s Open Face Breakfast operates as a breakfast and lunch spot in the Germantown area of Philadelphia, just outside of one of my old stomping grounds Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania (got my first post-law school apartment there).

Notably, Mike’s Open Face Breakfast filed as a “small business debtor case” filed by a “small business debtor”.  Pursuant to Bankruptcy Code 101, in order to be a “small business debtor”, a debtor must have aggregate noncontingent liquidated, secured and unsecured debts as of the date of the petition in an amount not more than $2,190,000 (excluding debts owed to 1 or more affiliates or insiders). 11 U.S.C. ss 101(51D).  The debtor must be engaged in commercial or business activities (other than primarily owning or operating real property).  Also, the case must be one in which a U.S. trustee has not appointed a creditors’ committee, or the court has determined that the creditors’ committee is insufficiently active and representative to provide oversight of the debtor.  11 U.S.C. ss 101(51D).

What is the impact of the “small business debtor case” designation?  The most obvious benefit is that typically the case proceeds more quickly, but at that same time the debtor is subjected to more U.S. trustee oversight and is required to comply with more procedural filing requirements.  For a great article re: “small business debtor cases”,  click here.