Dodgeville restaurant closes, leaves debts unpaid

Restaurant to rebrand after former owner closes without paying customers, others

Published On: Dec 12 2013 09:19:43 PM CST
DODGEVILLE, Wis. -

Denny Horn and his fiancee, Kalisha, had their 200 wedding invitations printed more than six months in advance. They never thought being well prepared would actually put them out hundreds of dollars.

Horn said their entire wedding, ceremony and reception, were booked to take place at Sam & Maddie’s restaurant in Dodgeville on May 17. That was still the plan until Nov. 6, when he found out through Facebook that their venue had suddenly shut down.

“It seems to be the great mystery of southwest Wisconsin at the moment,” Horn said.

Horn immediately emailed the restaurant and threatened to file suit if his $400 deposit wasn’t refunded. He received a promising reply.

“The response was, ‘We're going over our final financials and you'll get your deposit back,’” Horn said.

That was the last Horn heard from the business.

Now, the couple is left with a stack of flawed card stock. In all, the invitations, the deposit and other reservations will put them out more than $1,000.

“Every marriage hits rough times. Ours happened to come before we got on the freeway,” Horn said.

Crystal Slaney and Sarah Woerpel have received a number of calls from people in similar situations. Both of them used to be managers at Sam & Maddie’s, and now they plan to reopen the place by late February.

“We can do this. We can absolutely do this,” Slaney said. “This place can be profitable if it's run right.”

Slaney and Woerpel said they were not surprised that the former owner, Kyle Olson, shut the doors on the restaurant without warning and with some financial obligations unsettled.

The building owner who leased Sam & Maddie’s to Olson said he owed more than $60,000 in lease back payments, food and liquor purchases and utility bills.

Calls to Olson in California went unreturned.

Olson’s attorney said he and his client are just starting to dissolve the business, and they are in the midst of sending letters to any creditors. If Sam & Maddie’s assets can’t settle any outstanding balance, anyone owed money would have to sue to get it back.

None of the food and liquor vendors News 3 spoke with could disclose whether or not they planned to file suit.

Slaney and Woerpel said they’re in the midst of renovating. The property owner has already reacquired the establishment’s liquor license, and Slaney said vendors will do business with them since they would be brand new ownership.

Slaney stressed that the restaurant will undergo some renovations over the next few months and reopen as a different place, perhaps with a different name.

“I would hope people would understand that we're not the same as what Sam & Maddie's was,” Slaney said.

Slaney added they plan to honor any reservation made before Sam & Maddie’s closed, meaning they will keep any rooms booked for those who have already signed a contract.

“We want to show them that, you know, this is not our doing but we want to help you,” Slaney said. “We want to make things right.”

Slaney and Woerpel said the deposits made for the space are not theirs to pay back.

“We didn't take it to begin with. We didn't take their deposit. We didn't personally take it, so we don't feel as we can personally give it back,” Woerpel said.

“That's him. That's not us, that's him,” Slaney said. “He has to deal with that.”

Horn said he no longer plans to file a lawsuit against anyone. After calling 13 other places, he and his bride will still be married in May at another Dodgeville venue.

Horn said he’s not going to waste any more time and frustration on Olson or the situation.

“Regardless, in the end I'm still marrying the woman I love, so it is what it is,” Horn said.