s
s
Sections
Sections
Search
Subscribe

Will Copia reopen?


The fate of Copia, the $78 million wine, food and art center founded by legendary vintner Robert Mondavi, remains in limbo as competing groups float proposals to reopen the bankrupt complex in downtown Napa.

Copia is working on a liquidation plan that preserves the 12-acre complex for some sort of public use, said John MacConaghy, the organization?s bankruptcy attorney.

?We want the building to be used for the benefit of the community,? MacConaghy said Friday following the latest hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Rosa.

But it?s unclear whether any of the proposals to reopen the center will satisfy creditors or bankruptcy court Judge Alan Jaroslovsky, who is overseeing the case.

On Friday, a group of Napa business leaders, the Coalition to Preserve Copia, submitted a plan to the court that calls for reopening the center.

The nonprofit group would sell off Copia?s undeveloped land to pay creditors, and collect fees from hotels and other downtown businesses to rent the 80,000-square-foot Copia building.

The group would then seek $30 million in financing to acquire the property. The Coalition to Preserve Copia suggested using the facility as a visitor information center, wine and food conference center, restaurant and wine tasting center.

Copia is ?very interested? in the group?s plan, MacConaghy told the court Friday.

The Culinary Institute of America, which has a cooking school, restaurant and other programs in St. Helena, is also interested in using the downtown Napa center if it reopens, said Louis Cisz, an attorney for ACA Financial Corp. and Bank of New York, Copia?s largest creditors.

Another group of creditors, Copia Claims LLC, has its own plan for reopening the center, with help from Saratoga?s Mountain Winery, a popular South Bay concert venue.

It?s unclear how much Copia?s creditors, vendors and employees would receive from the liquidation plans.

Jaroslovsky said he would give the parties more time to work on their proposals, which must be submitted to creditors for a vote. He scheduled another hearing for May 29.

Copia shut its doors Nov. 21 after running out of cash and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early December.

Also known as the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, Copia opened in 2001 and hosted more than a million visitors since then.

Mondavi, who died last year at 94, donated $25 million to launch the center. It featured art galleries, gardens, cooking classes, wine courses and Julia?s Kitchen, an upscale restaurant named for famed chef Julia Child.

But the nonprofit lost at least $5 million a year, according to Copia?s filings in the bankruptcy case. Copia was hampered by high debt service, a shortage of retail space, a hard-to-find location and poor building design, it said.

Since December, Copia?s creditors have been jockeying for position in the bankruptcy case.

Copia has dropped plans to sell the center?s 5,000-bottle wine collection, MacConaghy said Friday. The collection, which includes a number of high-priced U.S. and European vintages, is worth $40,000 to $60,000, according to Copia.

Creditors ACA and Bank of New York objected to the sale, saying they have a lien against the wine collection and that Copia wanted to sell it at ?fire sale? prices.

Copia?s collection is worth less than it was a year ago because the market for high-end U.S. wines has collapsed in the economic downturn, according to a consultant hired by Copia.