After 45 days in business, Crostini Bar closes, leaving a mountain of debt, unpaid employees as Compass Properties searches for a new operator
When a new concept to Wausau was announced last October for the former St. Clair’s Menswear storefront — small crostini sandwiches and Wisconsin craft beer and wines — it seemed like a sure-fire hit. City officials thought so too, granting it one of the last remaining $600 regular liquor licenses over WOW Family Entertainment Center and Masa Sushi Bar and Grill (both of which had to pay $10,000 for the reserve license).
Nine months, multiple delays and hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt later, Crostini Bar—open only a total 45 days in that time—is closed as its landlord, Compass Properties, has taken control of the space and is looking for new tenants.
According to court records, Judge Jill Falstad entered a judgment of $196,000 against Crostini owner Troy Davis for unpaid rent and remodeling costs to Compass, as well as court costs and attorney’s fees. The closure has left Davis’ business partner, Tom Deppiesse, stranded. Deppiesse sold his Stevens Point business Indulgence Wine Bar and moved his inventory to Crostini to partner with Davis, Deppiesse says, but on paper that arrangement was never finalized because Davis stalled on the paperwork.
The space likely will reopen soon under a new name and operator. Compass Properties already has received interest from owners of six established businesses to take over the storefront, says Compass Manager Mark Craig, and he expects to announce a new tenant within the next two weeks. Craig and Deppiesse say the business took in around $45,000 in the 45 days it was open, and Craig believes the right operator could make the location successful.
“I don’t know in my 30 years in real estate that I’ve done more for a tenant,” says Craig, who worked with Davis in getting Crostini off the ground. “And I don’t think I’ve ever been more burned.”
In total Davis paid $40,000 to Compass Properties, far less than the total Davis owed, Craig says.
Craig says he’s troubled to learn that Davis owned a restaurant called Melthouse Bistro in Milwaukee, which closed in 2015 after operating for three and a half years—something Craig says Davis never told anyone at Compass. Davis has two delinquent tax warrants for payroll withholdings filed in Milwaukee County in 2016 by the Department of Revenue, according to court records.
Financial troubles at Crostini abounded during its brief time in business, says Crostini Chef and General Manager Korey Oertel. No employees received their last paycheck, which should have been due Friday, Oertel says. Several paychecks from the previous payroll bounced but were later paid in full. Vendors visited Crostini two or three times a week asking about unpaid bills or checks that had bounced, Oertel says. Oertel says he plans to seek help from the Department of Workforce Development to help the unpaid employees.
Crostini’s liquor license will return to the city if not used within 30 days under the abandonment clause, says city clerk Toni Rayala. If Davis doesn’t voluntarily surrender the license, the city will hold a revocation hearing. The city’s public health and safety committee would then post the license’s availability for five days and take applicants, similar to when Crostini was awarded the license, says Public Health and Safety Committee chair Lisa Rasmussen. The committee will then evaluate the applying businesses on factors such as economic impact, strength of business plan and proximity to churches or schools, Rasmussen says.
While the Crostini situation is troubling, Rasmussen says the committee shouldn’t let that situation affect future decisions about granting liquor licenses or extensions. After being granted the license, Crostini was granted three extensions for opening because of construction and staff delays. “You can’t let one applicant change how you make decisions,” Rasmussen says. In issuing liquor licenses, the city looks into applicants’ criminal record for alcohol-related offenses, but not an in-depth review of financial business history.
Messages sent to two different cell phones belonging to Davis requesting comment were not returned.