Wisconsin’s Biggest Distillery Goes Bust, But That’s Not The End Of The Story

Just before Thanksgiving, Wisconsin’s largest distillery filed for bankruptcy. Death’s Door, a company named for the hazardous waterway off the tip of Door County, was at death’s door. But that is not the end of Death’s Door’s story. Like many bankrupt businesses before it, the brand has been bought by an investor who plans to retool and resurrect it.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Travis Hasse and Tom Maas, partners in Dancing Goat Distillery in Cambridge, purchased Death’s Door for $2.48 million at the end of a five-hour auction that took 24 rounds and included two other bidding groups. The sale was approved by Judge Catherine Furay in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison, and will be finalized shortly.

“Death’s Door, founded in 2007, had been using contract distillers to make its products until 2012, when it invested $3 million for the construction of a 25,000-square-foot distillery in a Middleton industrial park… [The new facility had the capacity to] produce up to 200,000 cases a year but the facility did not have a tasting room and production leveled off at about 30,000 cases. In October, Death’s Door, the state’s largest distillery, ended its six-year relationship with Serrallés USA, a Puerto Rican rum importer that helped finance the distillery’s construction. When Death’s Door filed for bankruptcy just before Thanksgiving, it was $6 million in debt to more than 100 creditors, which included about $3.5 million owed to Serrallés.”

Hasse and Maas haven’t released specific details about what they plan to do with the Death’s Door brand, but they say they want to grow the brand within Wisconsin. “That’s what I’ve done with our current brands,” Hasse said. “When I started selling Hasse’s Apple Pie (Liqueur) it’s always been Wisconsin. The backyard is what’s important to us.”

This is great news for Wisconsin, and a great example of how the bankruptcy process can be used to save a company rather than shutter it. Our firm works with lots of businesses in the Milwaukee area who want to use the bankruptcy process to take a pause so they can retool and relaunch.

There is a misconception that filing for bankruptcy means a business will be shutting down. Nothing could be further from the truth. The law is designed to both wind down businesses, and to restart them in a way that will allow them to flourish.

If your business in under financial stress, it may be time to talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Attorneys like the ones who work at our firm can help you determine what your options are. And this goes well beyond bankruptcy. Perhaps you can get by just by renegotiating your loans, or by working out an agreement with your creditors.

Maybe it is not you that is in trouble but a supplier or customer, our firm can help protect your business from being dragged down by someone else in your supply chain. The sooner you take action the better.