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Copia food and wine center files for Ch. 11

NAPA Calif. Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month after closing abruptly on Nov. 21.

The Napa-based nonprofit center has obtained a $2 million debtor-in-possession line of credit to supplement its working capital, which will allow employees, vendors and other partners to be paid. In addition, the center will seek court approval for the sale and leaseback of its real estate assets, McGuire said.

“We recently have taken intensive measures to overcome our deteriorating liquidity position,” Copia's interim chief executive Garry McGuire said in a statement. “The decision to restructure the business through a Chapter 11 filing should provide us with the opportunity to strengthen our balance sheet, create a more efficient expense structure and ultimately position our public-benefit corporation to compete more effectively.”

According to the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Northern California, Copia’s top 20 creditors include the New York- and Los Angeles-based Patina Restaurant Group, which previously handled the facility’s catering operations.

Founded in 2001 with a $25 million donation from the late winemaker Robert Mondavi, Copia was designed to be a national focal point for the celebration of food and wine. The 12-acre property in Napa Valley wine country includes 13,000 square feet of gallery space, a 260-seat theater, a 74-seat demonstration kitchen, classrooms and a rare books library. It also includes a restaurant, Julia’s Kitchen, which is named for television personality and cookbook author Julia Child.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the center has struggled financially, losing at least $4 million per year since it opened. The facility’s staff was reportedly cut from 80 to 56 members in September, and days of operation were cut from seven to three.

In recent months, officials have attempted to turn around the center by backing away from its museum emphasis and changing Copia into a place for food-and-wine education and experiences. The center recently introduced a Copia TV venture, and in September named television chef and author Tyler Florence as dean of culinary education.

The efforts have improved revenues over the past two quarters, McGuire said, though he declined to offer specifics.

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