Originally created 01/04/01

Auction fails to sell restaurant



SAVANNAH - It was the sale that simply wasn't.

As beloved and historically significant as the Crystal Beer Parlor was to the Savannah community, the sentiments weren't enough to save it.

After all was said and done, the expected $700,000 minimum asking price for the restaurant, bar, upstairs apartment, kitchen equipment and memorabilia was just too steep for the average buyer. The Crystal is now owned by SunTrust Bank.

The public auction held on the Chatham County Courthouse steps Tuesday morning resulted in no bidders meeting the bank's asking price. About 20 people showed up for the auction outside in the cold. Only one person offered a bid.

Ronald Cohen, a local attorney with Hunter MacLean who represented the bank, started the bid at $607,000, or the principal still owed by the previous owners, E. Conrad and Carol Thomson.

Mr. Cohen said the bank would hold the parlor until it could find a buyer on its own.

"If you have the certified funds, we'd sell it to you right now," he said. "We would sell it outright. We aren't in the business of owning real estate. They'd rather have the money than the building."

Originally, the Thomsons owed SunTrust more than $2.2 million, but the couple transferred a second business on Waters Avenue, equipment and their home in The Landings in December 1999 to the bank to help satisfy their debt.

Mrs. Thomson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 1999. Many of the money problems came after the couple tried to open a second Crystal Beer Parlor on the southside in 1996.

A variety of problems followed: The second restaurant's construction went overbudget, soft sales ate into the revenue of both eateries, no money was used for promotion or marketing, employee turnover was high, and traffic was blocked on Jones Street.

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