On June 27, the Wild Boar Restaurant, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner for the past 14 years, served its last guests. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court locked the doors the following day, barring employees and expected guests, and the process of liquidation under Chapter 7 involuntary bankruptcy began.
The Nashville, Tenn., restaurant had been an overnight success after being purchased by the late Tom Allen in 1993. He quickly turned the Wild Boar into a serious wine destination, but the restaurant had struggled recently. Growing competition from corporate chains eroded the restaurant's customer base, and the weak American dollar impaired its wine program, the owners claimed.
"Time ran out on us," said Allen's son, Brett, proprietor and general manager of the restaurant.
Earlier this year, Z-1 Acquisition Corporation, the restaurant's operating company, filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy law. The reorganization effort included new chefs, a more casual bistro menu and plans to sell the restaurant. But "the changing economic climate wasn't appealing to the new buyers," said Allen, and the company's status was switched from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 on June 27 by the U.S. Trustees office in an effort to pay off the estimated $261,000 in liabilities, as reported by the Tennessean, which first broke the story.
When the elder Allen (who died in 1996) bought the Wild Boar, he initially invested an ambitious $1.5 million in wine and assembled a collection of trophy wines from some of the greatest vintages of Bordeaux, Champagne and Port. "I want this to be not only the best restaurant and wine cellar in the state, but, if we can do it, in the world," Allen avowed in a 1993 interview with Wine Spectator. That year, the Wild Boar earned Wine Spectator's Grand Award, an honor it held until it closed last month.
Despite the changes at the restaurant during its time in Chapter 11, the Wild Boar's wine list still offered numerous classic bottlings, including a collection of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti dating back to the 1970s; a broad selection of Bordeaux verticals back to the 1940s, such as the 1947 Château Cheval-Blanc ($4,285) and the 1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild ($7,641); and an impressive vertical of Château d'Yquem running back to 1937 ($3,032).
In addition to the wine, the Wild Boar also featured many great chefs. The talent included Boris Keller, who had previously earned Michelin stars at two restaurants in Germany, and Bob Wagonner, now chef of the Charleston Grill in Charleston, S.C. Thomas Keller had a cameo as a guest chef at the Wild Boar before he opened his famous restaurant in Napa Valley, the French Laundry (a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner).
Now the restaurant's assets, including the wine inventory, have been turned over to Robert Waldschmidt, the court-appointed trustee who will oversee the liquidation. Waldschmidt said that he received numerous offers for the wine from a variety of interests, such as private collectors and auction houses. On July 11, he formally filed a motion to sell the entire wine inventory along with the restaurant's tables and chairs for $1 million to Cal Turner III, founder and CEO of Cal IV Entertainment, a music publishing company based in Nashville. If Turner's offer is approved, the deal could close by the end of this month. The restaurant's artwork and equipment will also be sold, and the landlord, Vanderbilt University, will retain the property.
"We had a really good vision, and we are proud of what we did," Brett Allen said, reflecting on the family's legacy at the Wild Boar. But for now, he said he plans to oversee the restaurant's liquidation and then pursue new opportunities in the hospitality industry.
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