Erdman's Countryside Inn in foreclosure

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Neil Johnson
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TOWN OF MILTON—As Countryside Inn owner Rich Erdman readies for a court fight over the ongoing suspension of his tavern's liquor license, it appears financial woes could further threaten the embattled tavern.

The Bank of Milton has filed a foreclosure action against Erdman's K.M.E Properties, the holding company that owns the Countryside Inn, according to court papers filed last week in Rock County court.

The filing claims Erdman has slipped behind in mortgage and tax payments for the Countryside Inn.

Erdman owes the Bank of Milton $18,385 for four outstanding mortgage payments late in 2013 and early in 2014. Erdman also owes $17,589 in delinquent taxes for 2013, according to tax records at the Rock County Treasurer's Office.

Meanwhile, his liquor license remains suspended after a court ruling Monday.

The town of Milton suspended Erdman's liquor license at the Countryside for 60 days Feb. 20 after the town board found he was running a “disorderly and riotous” tavern. That was after the Rock County Sheriff's Office and town of Milton police reported and testified to the town on two shootings at the tavern--one June 22, the other Jan 26.

Both shootings happened when large crowds were leaving the bar after dance parties Erdman and a Madison promoter held there, police said. Each left a man injured, yet Erdman has insisted police have no hard evidence that a shooting happened Jan. 26.

The sheriff's office has not released full details on its investigation of the incident Jan. 26. Several shoving fights broke out in the tavern and a scuffle outside the bar escalated into a shooting that injured a Madison man, police said.  

Police have made no arrests in that incident, and prosecutors threw out a murder charge after an arrest in the June 2013 shooting. They said witnesses in that case kept changing their stories and wouldn't show up for court. 

Erdman has filed two lawsuits against the town of Milton, arguing in court papers that the town denied him due process and was wrong to yank his liquor license based on the purported Jan. 26 shooting, which he says police can't prove happened.

He wants the town to pay him for lost sales during the suspension, which started March 1. That case is pending.

Erdman's second suit seeks to block the suspension of his liquor license. A Rock County judge decided Monday to overturn that suit and uphold the suspension. It runs through May 2.

Erdman says the court threw out police testimony on the Jan. 26 shooting. 

“My suspension now stands because there were people pushing that night (Jan. 26) because we had a dance event,” Erdman said. “It's weird. At other bars, they punch or hit people and smash a bottle in somebody's face. They haven't been served with anything yet.”

Erdman does not dispute the June 2013 shooting, although he's called it an isolated incident and claims it was the result of a “love triangle” that went sour. He doesn't blame his dance parties, for which he says he hired extra security and even offered to hire extra patrols.

Erdman has said he would stop hosting dance parties. Yet that promise has not cleared up his financial woes at the Countryside, and he said the liquor license suspension has made things worse.

Erdman claims the suspension has cost him at least $2,500 a week and as much as $10,000 a week during March, which he says brings in an influx of students on spring break. That's on top of an especially brutal winter weather that he said crimped sales at his and other taverns.

According to court papers filed by the Bank of Milton, Erdman missed a partial mortgage payment in December 2013, and he missed three more mortgage payments of $5,600 apiece the first three months this year.

The February payment was due five days before the town pulled Erdman's license at the Countryside.

The bank's court filing claims the tavern is now closed, and the bank has petitioned that the court consider it “abandoned.” The Bank of Milton also gave notice March 7 that it could consider Erdman's $585,000 mortgage on the Countryside to be in default.

Erdman says its untrue the tavern is closed, although he said in court papers he has laid off employees and the tavern has made only $200 or $300 a week since the liquor license suspension started.

He makes no bones about the financial situation.

“Yes, it (the Countryside) is in foreclosure. When you're not fully open, you're not making mortgage payments. Ten days would hurt a bar,” Erdman said.  “The bank's got to do what they've got to do, and I'll have to file some protection. Hopefully, we'll find a way to keep going.”

Last updated: 9:47 am Tuesday, April 15, 2014

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