The Old Sage closes after owner’s $2.4M bankruptcy filing

The $2.4 million bankruptcy of one of the pioneers of Pike/Pine’s explosion as a center of Seattle food and drink investment is behind the sudden closure of 12th Ave’s The Old Sage. While Brian McCracken’s neighboring Tavern Law has not made a similar announcement, rumors of a sale of the early player in Seattle’s renewed craft cocktail scene persist.

The bad news about The Old Sage bar and restaurant, as so much bad news does these days, came over the weekend via Facebook:

Friends of the Old Sage, its with a heavy heart that we must say goodbye to you all tonight. We have had a amazing run and truly appreciate all the support you have given us over the years. Our entire staff invites you to join us tonight for one last get together. Come on down, drink some scotch, laugh with us, and lets give The Old Sage one amazing goodbye. 50% off everything we have left, CASH ONLY.

According to documents filed in Western District of Washington United States Bankruptcy Court, McCracken and his wife filed May 20th for chapter 7 protection over some $2.4 million in debts. Included in the filings are some $70,000 in taxes, nearly $50,000 in student loans, $10,000 for a 12th and Madison landlord, $38,000 owed to McCracken’s landlord in Belltown, $26,000 and change to AMEX, a whopping $218,439 to Gravity Payments, and $67,329 to something called Loan Me to go with $5,200 owed to the Money Tree. 

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But the big number is owed to Key Bank — $1,248,498.16.

In April, CHS reported on a summary judgement against McCracken detailing the more than $1.2 million owed for a loan he took from his father in 2009. According to the court records, McCracken has been fighting the lawsuit since it was filed last September by Key Bank, which had obtained the note from McCracken’s father, Roger McCracken, in 2012. The original loan was for $652,305. Attorneys have argued over how much of it was paid and how much the amount owed had ballooned thanks to interest.

Following April’s closure of Spur Gastropub in Belltown, McCracken said his plan was to keep his Capitol Hill assets operating. “Our Tavern Law and Old Sage customers are some of the most supportive in Seattle,” McCracken said. “We wouldn’t be here without them. And we look forward to serving the neighborhood for as long as we can.”

Tracking sales of private businesses can be tricky though eventually both venues will need an update liquor permit if transactions go down. So far, the paperwork end of things has been quiet.

McCracken and Dana Tough brought their vision to the Capitol Hill food and drink scene in 2009 with the opening of Tavern Law. In 2013 after a longer than expected opening process, The Old Sage marked the duo’s second venue on 12th Ave. In the meantime, Spur Gastropub and The Coterie Room, before it transitioned into an event space, made for a constellation of buzzworthy businesses around the city. According to bankruptcy filings, McCracken held only a 33% share of Tavern Law’s ownership but was sole owner of the other venues. Tough isn’t listed as an officer for any of the businesses in state corporation filings and we don’t see any record of financial judgements around his involvement in the businesses.

We have reached out to both Tough and McCracken to ask about the Old Sage closure and the status of Tavern Law but have not heard back. In the bankruptcy filing, McCracken and his wife were required to provide details of outstanding contracts and leases including details about their Seattle home. “Debtors’ last day is June 5, 2016,” the filing notes.

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9 thoughts on “The Old Sage closes after owner’s $2.4M bankruptcy filing

  1. I could tell Old Sage wasn’t going to last, it’s never quite found an audience. It’s a damn shame, the food was amazing and they always had great staff (but kind of alarming turnover). Was glad to say goodbye on Friday, one of the bartenders said that Tavern Law has been sold. The McCracken-Tough empire is dead.

    • Er: by “glad to say goodbye” I mean “glad I got the chance to say goodbye.” I’m going to miss that place like crazy.

  2. Wasn’t a fan of Old Sage when I ate there once, and it never seemed busy. Surprised it lasted this long.

  3. Old Sage was too big and overpriced. I knew within the first month that it wouldn’t last. Craft cocktailing is on the downward trend. Rumors are swirling around about knee high as well.

  4. It seems that McCracken has been very irresponsible as far as money management is concerned….getting loans from a variety of places, unable to pay them back.

    Are “student loans” really allowed as part of a bankruptcy proceeding?