WALLA WALLA -- Property of Whitman Cellars has been seized as the result of a lawsuit by Community Bank claiming the winery owes it more than $2.6 million.
Acting on a court order, the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office on Friday seized the facility at 1015 W. Pine St. and all of its property, including inventory and other assets, according to a news release from Andrea Burkhart, the bank's attorney.
"The doors are closed effective immediately," the news release says. "A deputy sheriff was present when the locks to the Whitman Cellars building were changed. Community Bank is in the process of obtaining a court-appointed receiver to sell the assets."
The bank's suit, filed Monday in Superior Court, alleges that Whitman Cellars has defaulted on three loans and owes the financial institution about $2.67 million in unpaid principal, interest and other charges. Judge Donald W. Schacht granted the bank's request for a "writ of attachment" to seize the property to secure and preserve it to help satisfy any final judgment in the case.
Burkhart said in the news release that the bank initiated legal action reluctantly, but necessarily. "After Whitman Cellars' default, Community Bank attempted to work with Whitman Cellars and its owners to develop voluntary arrangements for paying the debt. Unfortunately, these efforts were not successful," the release said.
Burkhart added that the bank is dedicated to the prosperity of the Valley, is mindful of the seizure's impact on employees and others in the local wine industry and will handle the matter responsibly.
Individual defendants listed in the lawsuit include member and resident agent John R. Edwards, in addition to members Larry and Sally Thomason and Stephen Lessard.
In an interview with the Union-Bulletin before the seizure Friday, Thomason said he knew nothing about it, but acknowledged the debt. The winery is listed for sale at Coldwell Banker First Realtors with an asking price of about $3 million.
Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.
For more background information please see our earlier story:
Debt lands Whitman Cellars in court