Janesville47.6°

LiquiPur struggles to obtain financing

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JAMES P. LEUTE
January 8, 2010
— A local developer who is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent and other fees is pulling the plug on a bottling company that has yet to make good on plans to open in Janesville and create 90 jobs.

Since announcing its intentions in 2008, LiquiPur has struggled to obtain financing to start its operation in a 110,000-square-foot building at 505 S. Wuthering Hills Drive.


Despite the delay, a company spokesman said Thursday that LiquiPur is committed to its plans for Janesville.


The company, owned by Fontana businessman Bernard Kaufmann, intends to specialize in liquid beverages that are nutritional, organic and based on leading-edge technology for recipes and packaging that is environmentally sensitive. In Janesville, the company plans a hot-fill beverage line as well as a state-of-the-art aseptic food and beverage operation.


The company had a Dec. 31 deadline to pay back rent and other charges to avoid eviction.


Jeff Helgesen, the building’s owner, said he’s been patient with LiquiPur but hasn’t received the money he’s owed, an amount approaching $350,000.


He said he’s lost confidence the company will get the financing to either pay him what he’s owed or start the business.


“LiquiPur has no chance of reopening in my building,” Helgesen said Thursday.


He said he relisted the property with Coldwell Banker Commercial McGuire Mears & Associates.


Helgesen filed a small claims eviction action against LiquiPur last fall, and the two sides agreed that the company would vacate the building by Dec. 31. That hasn’t happened, Helgesen said, and the locks have been changed and company officials have been denied entry.


Representatives of the California-based Saddle Springs Beverage Co. arrived this week to reclaim equipment in the building. Helgesen said he was told LiquiPur owned the equipment and was surprised to learn it was leased from Saddle Springs.


LiquiPur spokesman John Zolikoff said the company doesn’t owe Saddle Springs any money for the equipment. He said the supplier is moving the equipment from the building as “a precautionary measure against the actions and comments of Mr. Helgesen.”


Zolikoff said Helgesen’s actions and comments have not gone unnoticed by LiquiPur’s investors and “that has made closing our final agreement more difficult.”


LiquiPur’s vendors, customers and stakeholders continue to be supportive of the project, he said, adding that the company continues to work cooperatively with Helgesen’s representatives to move the project forward.


LiquiPur still has property on the premises. Helgesen will charge the company a storage fee of more than $1,000 per day until the property is removed. If it’s not claimed in 30 days, it will be disposed of.


Helgesen’s attorney also has indicated that legal action is likely to recover unpaid rent and other fees.


The city of Janesville has a financial interest in the project. A Tax Increment Finance agreement already has provided LiquiPur with half of a $200,000 forgivable loan.


City officials have said that if the LiquiPur project fails, the city will try to recover the $100,000 advanced to the company.


“Hopefully, this is the final chapter,” Helgesen said. “This has been a year of continuous lies and deceit by the officers of LiquiPur regarding the status of their funding, the ownership of equipment and building plans …


“The city of Janesville and its people trusted LiquiPur to act in good faith with their TIF money. I don’t believe they have done that.”


Zolikoff said LiquiPur’s investors still believe Janesville is the ideal location for the business, and they’ll keep trying to make the project a reality.


“The LiquiPur team is committed to seeing this project to completion and bringing much-needed jobs to the Janesville community,” Zolikoff said.



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