The job of a Bankruptcy Court judge might not sound all that tough, until you consider the fine line they must walk. On one hand, they have to weigh the rights of creditors who are owed money by the company that has filed for bankruptcy protection. They need to decide if they have faith in the reorganization plan put forward by the owners or if all involved -- including hourly employees -- would be better off if the company was sold or dismantled. And they have to do all of this knowing that careers and reputations hang in the balance.
In the case of the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. it appears that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge M. Bruce McCullough may have made up his mind that it's last call for the 145-year-old brewery. This week, Judge McCullough gave the owners of the brewery that churns out Iron City beer until Nov. 7th to come up with the financing to save the company. He sounded pretty skeptical doing it.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quotes McCullough at a hearing regarding $814,000 the brewery owes in federal excise taxes as saying: "If they can't even pay this, why don't we just shut it down?" He also tossed in: "This thing has gone on long enough and it isn't happening. When it's dead, it's dead." Judge McCullough criticized the reorganization plan from Pittsburgh Brewing saying, "The plan you've got ain't gonna work."
The brewer filed for bankruptcy protection in December when the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority threatened shut off water -- which is fairly important when you are making beer -- because the company owed more than $2 million in unpaid bills. The brewery has asked for concessions from unionized workers at the plant and claims it has active talks going with potential investors. A number of rumors have swirled around Pittsburgh in recent weeks, one that has Pittsburgh Brewing shuttering its plant and starting to produce Iron City in Latrobe, Pa., at a brewery now owned by City Brewing of Wisconsin. That brewery used to make the Rolling Rock brand, which Anheuser-Busch purchased earlier this year. Production of Rolling Rock now takes place in Newark, N.J.
Judge McCullough told Pittsburgh Brewing's lawyers that they must come back with a "credible" plan and financing on Nov. 7th. He criticized the owners for stretching out the process and getting it closer to the holidays when he said he did not want to put people out of work.