For 35 years, Premier Cru, a retail store on University Avenue, was a place to which wine lovers turned to find Bordeaux and Burgundy at a discount. Advertising its wares as 10% to 15% lower than other high-end wine stores, Premier Cru drew customers from around the globe
The FBI is investigating claims of a Ponzi scheme involving the Berkeley wine company Premier Cru.
As the Chapter 7 bankruptcy case of the Berkeley wine store winds its way through court, significant details emerge about its operations.
The wine company claims it has more than $70 million in debts but only $7 million in assets, most of it wine, and leaves nearly 1,000 customers in the lurch.
PREMIER CRU SHUTS ITS DOORS Premier Cru, the subject of numerous lawsuits over the alleged non-delivery of wine, has shut the doors of its retail store at 1011 University Ave. “We have transitioned to ONLINE SALES only,” reads a sign on the front door. “We apologize for the inconvenience.” The sign says to email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time to pick up past orders. The closure is only the latest blow for the high-end wine business owned by Fox Ortega Enterprises, a corporation formed by John Fox and a partner. Premier Cru moved its operations from Emeryville to Berkeley in 2011 and opened a 29,000-square foot, state-of-the-art wine shop designed by architect David Trachtenberg. Premier Cru sold wine through the store, but conducted much of its business through online sales. There are currently $130,000 in unpaid taxes on the building and it has been listed for sale. Gordon Commercial is offering the property, made up of three parcels and three buildings, for $6.8 million (down from $7.5 million). In late October, Berkeleyside reported that seven people had filed numerous lawsuits claiming they were owed more than $3 million. The plaintiffs all said that they had purchased wine from Premier Cru that had never been delivered. Since then, numerous disgruntled customers have come forward and contacted Berkeleyside and other news outlets to report similar issues. Others have filed additional lawsuits. Premier Cru’s owner, Fox, did not respond to a request for a comment. Some unhappy customers have been given refunds. Andrew Matarese, a 25-year-old wine aficionado from New Jersey, received a $12,000 refund from Premier Cru shortly after Berkeleyside ran its article. However, other customers have been repeatedly promised refunds but have received nothing. (more…)
Seven disgruntled customers have filed lawsuits against Premier Cru, a high-end wine store on University Avenue.
Nine buildings have been singled out as representing the best new design work in Berkeley for 2010-2012. Berkeley Design Advocates, a volunteer group of architects and urban planners, selected three UC Berkeley buildings, a restaurant, a senior home, two retail spaces — one newly built, one restored — a wine store, and the renovation of a branch library from a list of 15 submissions, and handed out the award certificates at a ceremony on Thursday, March 28. (See the 2013 Awards Brochure for full details.)
VIDEO NO MORE After 22 years in business, Video Maniacs at 1482 University is shuttering its doors at the end of the year. Owner Henry Bhukhan said rentals are half what they were two years ago because of Netflix and online streaming. The closure leaves only two freestanding videos store in Berkeley — Five Star at 1550 University Avenue, and Blockbuster at 2390 Shattuck (near Channing). And, as we reported last month, the latter is scheduled to shut down in 2012 when a branch of Chase Bank takes over the space.
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