Business

Fish Brewing is still open for business as buyers show interest before bid deadline

Olympia’s Fish Brewing Co., which dealt with some financial setbacks by entering receivership in May, is still open for business and still for sale, those close to the operation said Tuesday.

The receiver responsible for Fish Brewing Co. is a Kirkland-based business called McCallen & Sons. In Olympia, Ken Reister, a former Fish Brewing board member, has been overseeing the day-to-day operations.

Many in the community think the business and its pub have closed, Reister said, and he sought to dispel that belief on Tuesday.

“We’re still open and we’re still making beer and cider,” he said.

The business is for sale and a new buyer could be right around the corner, Thurston County Superior Court records show.

“A call for bids was recently made, and the receiver is asking bidders to make their offers by July 19,” court records read.

Reister said the business is entertaining offers of $1.5 million for the whole thing, including the Olympia pub and a taproom in Woodinville, as well as all of its brands.

Fish has received interest from local, national and international buyers, including some who would like to keep all the existing employees.

“We know how it works,” said Reister about the 60 people who work for Fish.

The business produced 8,600 barrels of beer and cider in 2018, he said.

Two significant events led Fish Brewing to seek receivership, Reister said, emphasizing that it was a voluntary step taken by the business. Its investment in a new pub at Point Ruston in Pierce County didn’t attract enough customers and the business ran into challenges with a former distributor.

Fish Brewing was trying to work out a deal with its distributor when it was acquired by another distributor. The new distributor wasn’t as interested in selling all of Fish’s products, Reister said.

He defended the decision to seek receivership instead of bankruptcy because in receivership the business can continue to operate.

“The greatest value is in finding a buyer,” he said.

Court records show that Fish Brewing has several hundred shareholders, 150 unsecured creditors, and six secured creditors.

“Until all offers are received, the receiver has no way to know whether there will be sufficient proceeds from a sale to pay the claims of secured creditors, much less unsecured creditors,” the court records read.

Typically, secured creditors get paid first.

One of those secured creditors, Timberland Bank, which is owed about $1.4 million, has filed a motion in court to dismiss the receiver, or in the alternative, provide relief “from stay,” which would allow the bank to pursue its claims.

In court filings, the bank says unpaid loans that total nearly $1.4 million, due to interest, are growing about $300 a day.

Also in court filings, the receiver warns that “the absence of the stay may lead to new lawsuits being brought against Fish Brewing Co. that would further tax these limited resources.”

South Sound Bank made those loans to Fish Brewing, then it was later acquired by Timberland.

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