Popular vodka brand owes NFL teams, files Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Popular vodka brand owes NFL teams, files Chapter 11 bankruptcy John Besteley, the butler for motivational speaker and author Joe Kita, carries a tray of martini glasses outside. (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)

The craft beer industry has been hit hard since the Covid pandemic devastated the retail and restaurant industries starting in 2020.

The evidence is clear that breweries have been suffering from economic distress over the last four years. Last year alone, the U.S. beer market shrank by 5.1% in volume, according to the Brewers Association's 2023 annual report released in April.

Related: Distressed grocery brand files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

The beer industry did show some hope in 2023 as operating breweries increased slightly to 9,906 compared to 9,824 in 2022, according to the association. The report said 495 new breweries opened in 2023, but 418 closed.

Among the craft breweries closing in 2023 was San Francisco's Anchor Brewing, one of the most iconic in the business since its founding in 1896. The company filed Chapter 11 about a year ago in July 2023.

The good news for Anchor Brewing is that in May, the billionaire owner of Chobani yogurt Hamdi Ulukaya purchased the brewery and its facilities with plans to reopen the business.

Not only is the beer industry struggling, but the spirits business has had its share of bankruptcies as well. In March 2024, Colorado-based Lee Spirits Co., a distiller of premium gin, vodka and liqueurs, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Colorado after shutting down all operations, blaming Covid and the industry's changing landscape.

Related: Distressed pizza chain plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Montana Distillery followed Lee into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2024, blaming rising costs, property taxes and decreased revenues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic for its financial distress.

GameDay Vodka owner files bankruptcy

And now popular vodka distiller Never Forget Brands, which manufactures GameDay Vodka and Spiked canned vodka cocktails, on July 10 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy facing judgment liens from the National Football League's Buffalo Bills, owed $560,000, and New England Patriots affiliate Kraft Sports and Entertainment, owed $450,000.

More bankruptcy:

The debtor, which filed its petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Carolina, also owes unsecured claims to other NFL teams, including the Denver Bronco's affiliate Stadium Management Co. ($500,000,) Baltimore Ravens ($150,000,) New Orleans Saints ($150,000) and Indianapolis Colts ($110,000.) Additionally, the company faces a judgment lien for $377,678 owed to Revel XP, a college hospitality, tailgating and ticket package provider.

All litigation involving Never Forget Brands is subject to an automatic stay while the bankruptcy case proceeds.

The Isle of Palms, S.C., debtor listed $14.8 million in total assets and $13.7 million in total liabilities in its petition. The debtor's largest unsecured creditors include glass bottle manufacturer Pavisa USA, owed $2.1 million; collegiate sports marketing company Learfield Communications, owed $2.1 million; and Acceleration Group, a specialty lender for the craft cocktail industry, owed over $1 million.

The debtor did not state a specific reason for filing bankruptcy in its petition. GameDay's Facebook and LinkedIn pages did not mention the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Never Forget Brands' GameDay in 2022 had become the official vodka of 14 NFL and NCAA teams after operating for only two years. In June 2022, the company launched its GameDay Spiked vodka cocktails with three flavors: fruit punch flavored The Goat, lemon-lime flavored Cleat Chaser and strawberry lemonade flavored Cinderella Story. The beverages contain 99 calories and 5% alcohol by volume.

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