Joseph Richard group plans to buy back its pubs, restaurants

Buying back own restaurants

The Joseph Richard Group is putting all of its 19 B.C. restaurants and related businesses up for sale as part of the process to get its books back in order while in creditor protection.

Those businesses employ nearly 700 people and remain in operation, principal Ryan Moreno told BIV this morning.

He said his company has bid to buy all of those ventures at a price that he would not divulge.

Other bidders have until the Aug. 1 deadline, set by BC Supreme Court, to formalize their offers.

It would then be up to creditors, such as main debt holder Canada Western Bank, to determine whether the bid to buy the restaurants is high enough.

"It is all part of the process," Moreno said.

He explained that putting the restaurants up for sale as a block, with the public able to bid to buy the restaurants, is the best way to pin a value on the restaurants.

"If somebody's willing to pay more than what we are, then, you know, so be it, but I mean, we put together a pretty fair offer, a pretty good offer, we think," he said.

The Joseph Richard Group filed for creditor protection last July and had that protection extended in November.

When it entered creditor protection, it owed about $34.4 million to Canadian Western Bank and $2.3 million to the Bank of Montreal.

Moreno stressed that much of the debt was for mortgages, and that the company has real estate assets to compensate for much of that debt.

The company was deep in debt in early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic descended, and Moreno said that the company took on an extra $6 million in debt during the pandemic, when restaurants were closed or operating at reduced capacity.

"That $6 million that we got didn't open another restaurant," he said. "It didn't improve the businesses. It just paid the bank. It paid taxes and it paid hydro and other expenses. It kept the economy going, which is what it was for. Now in a down economy, the bank wanted us to service an additional $6 million. We just couldn't do it."

Quadreal in 2021 had selected the Joseph Richard Group to operate a 26,000-square-foot food hall at its then-under-construction The Post development in downtown Vancouver, which incorporates an old post office building and has about 1.1 million square feet of office space that technology giant Amazon.com Inc. has leased.

That food hall is in limbo even though the site is now partially open. A Loblaws City Market, for example, opened in February.

"We were released from the commitment that we had there," Moreno said this morning. "At this point in time, I don't think that they've confirmed a direction of what they're going to do. We've been talking to them about a few different things, but there's nothing really confirmed for what they want to do."

The creditor protection process Joseph Richard Group is going through resembles one done last year by Freehouse Collective, better known as the Donnelly Group. It employed nearly 1,000 workers at nearly two dozen businesses.

The Donnelly Group was able to earn unanimous support from dozens of creditors for its plan for how to compensate them for money owed.

"We're very excited, mostly just because everybody got to keep their jobs," Donnelly Group principal Jeff Donnelly told BIV last year.

Part of Donnelly's deal, however, meant that it had to sell some assets, such as Yaletown restaurant Hello Goodbye.

"What we're doing is the same as Donnelly," Moreno said. "It's exactly the same process."

Joseph Richard Group's businesses include some in Surrey, such as The Henry, at 5708 176 Street, S&L Kitchen & Bar South Surrey, at 16051 24 Avenue and Clover Station Liquor Store, at 5858 176 Street.

Langley ones include:

-S&L Kitchen & Bar Langley, at 8399 200 Street;

-Oak & Thorne, at 20173 88 Avenue;

-The Italian Osteria & Cheesebar, at 20330 88 Avenue;

-Townhall Langley, at 19640 64 Avenue; and

-JRG Glass House Estates Winery Ltd. (operating company, not the winery itself), at 23449 0 Avenue.

In Richmond, the company operates:

-Steveston Café and Hotel, at 12111 Third Avenue;

-Steveston Liquor Store, at 12111 Third Avenue; and

-The Buck & Ear, at 12111 Third Avenue.

In Abbotsford, the company operates:

-S&L Kitchen & Bar Abbotsford, at 200 - 2070 Sumas Way;

-Tavern On The Green, at Ledgeview Golf Course; and

-Townhall Abbotsford, at 33720 South Fraser Way.

Other businesses include Whiskey Charlie, at 1007 - 18799 Airport Way, in Pitt Meadows, Townhall Chilliwack, at 6640 Vedder Road, in Chilliwack, Townhall Maple Ridge, at 20690 Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge, and The Queen's Liquor Store, at 1110 Ewen Avenue in New Westminster.

It also owns the caterer Blank Canvas Catering.

Moreno said that while his plan is to buy back all of those businesses, he could not promise that all of them would remain operating if his repurchase goes through.

Back in 2019, the Joseph Richard Group was rapidly expanding and was looking into operating ghost kitchens, which would be used to prepare food for meal-delivery services.

More Business News

Data from CryptoCompare
Castanet Proud Member of RTNDA Canada
Press Room