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Wild Duck owners face lawsuit.

Byline: Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

Owners of the former Wild Duck Brewery and Restaurant building in Eugene are hoping to flap their way to a safe landing and resolve a $1.4 million foreclosure lawsuit that has been filed against them by Umpqua Bank.

"I've been working closely with them on that, so it's not a surprise," co-owner Bob Jensen said Tuesday. "I'm not one of those people who turn their backs on their responsibilities. But we've reached a point where the market isn't supporting the price we'd like to get for the property."

According to the lawsuit filed last week in Lane County Circuit Court, Jensen and his partner in the venture - former University of Oregon and professional football quarterback Chris Miller - have failed since April to make payments of nearly $11,000 a month on a business loan they refinanced two years earlier.

The suit also charges that Miller and Jensen have not paid property taxes for 2002-03 and 2003-04.

Miller could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit.

The once-popular brew pub and night spot at 169 W. Sixth Ave. closed on New Year's Day because of rising costs and what Jensen described as deteriorating business conditions in downtown Eugene.

Those same factors have played against Jensen and Miller as they have sought to find other brew pubs from around the state and the region to buy their business and property or partner with them in the operation.

"Most weren't excited about an expensive, big project in downtown Eugene," Jensen said. "Those were all negative terms for them - expensive, big project and downtown Eugene."

However, Jensen said he is now negotiating a potential sale of the building with two separate entities. One would operate a brew pub at the location, and the other is interested in the building for an unspecified different use, he said.

Jensen expects negotiations to conclude by the end of the month. "But you can tell people the bidding is still open," he said.

He said it would cost at least $2.5 million today to construct the 14,000-square-foot facility that he and Miller opened in February 1996 for $2.2 million.

Jensen would not say what he hoped to get for the building, except that it will need to be enough to cover the Wild Duck's remaining debts.

"Our goal is to make everybody whole that we've done business with," he said. "We could have sold it several times, but not for a price that would make everybody whole."

The partners in the mid-1990s secured a start-up loan of $1.8 million with Centennial Bank. Centennial was later purchased by Umpqua. Jensen and Miller refinanced the loan in April 2002 to bring down its interest rate.

The lawsuit by Umpqua seeks the remaining principal loan amount of $1.43 million along with late charges of $3,802 and interest at the default rate of 12.55 percent a year from April 2004 until the debt is paid.

It names as defendants PB&C Development Co., formed by Jensen and Miller to hold ownership of the building, as well as Wild Duck Unlimited, Inc., and each of the partners individually.

It also names as defendants Cascade West Financial Services, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, and the U.S. Small Business Administration for their respective roles in arranging the Wild Duck's original start-up loan.

Jensen acknowledged his personal liability for repaying the loan, and said he intends to fulfill the obligation and move on to other chapters in his career.

"Some people kind of shrink in that situation, but there's still diligence and honor even in dealing with a negative situation," he said. "One thing is, when you're born in the U.S., there are still a lot of opportunities out there."
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Title Annotation:Courts; They hope sale of the building will allow them to pay off the brew pub's debts
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 8, 2004
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