Originally created 12/29/00

Savannah beer house up for auction



SAVANNAH - When the taps - and the doors - at Crystal Beer Parlor closed in the spring, it left fans of its food and ambience at a loss.

Its 67 years as a gathering spot, watering hole, restaurant, bar and meeting place will go unchallenged in Savannah's history.

Now, it will be auctioned on the courthouse steps to clear its debts.

The decision to try repeating the original parlor's success at a second location is probably what killed the business.

It simply wasn't in the stars for the southside version of Crystal Beer Parlor to become a success, even though it had all the elements - good location, more space, brighter decor.

But the Waters Avenue location couldn't find a foothold and quietly closed in July 1999, two years after opening.

Simply closing the southside doors wasn't the end of the parlor's problems. The problems are raging on now, right until it's sold to the highest bidder on the courthouse steps next week.

The fate of the beer parlor is in the hands of John Dixon and Associates, an auctioneer based in Marietta.

Up for sale is the real estate, the equipment and almost all the memorabilia inside the West Jones Street business. It will be sold as one unit come auction time at the Chatham County Courthouse.

The bidding is expected to start at about $700,000, said John Dixon, president of John Dixon and Associates.

William Dillard, a local attorney, is representing SunTrust and would not confirm the initial bid amount nor any other details regarding the sale.

The restaurant was started in the mid-1930s by William Bryant "Blocko" Manning and his wife, Connie. They bought the two-story house at Jones and Jefferson and converted the downstairs into the restaurant.

Stewardship of the restaurant was eventually passed from the Mannings to their son, "Snookie" Thomson and then to his son, E. Conrad Thomson, in the 1970s.

Originally, Conrad and Carol Thomson owed SunTrust more than $2.2 million, but the couple transferred the Waters Avenue property and equipment as well as their home in The Landings in December 1999 to the bank to help satisfy the debt.

Even though SunTrust is the main debtor, there is still another $34,118 owed in taxes and $35,815 owed to other unsecured creditors.

Mr. Dixon's office has fielded some calls by people interested in the property, but not a lot of inquiries. After Tuesday's auction, whoever enters the winning bid will own it.

"People will be assuming they're getting a bargain," Mr. Dixon said. "They will be."