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>Blend to be reopened

>The Records
Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chris Shields, who became the majority investor of the failed Ridgewood bar, restaurant and music venue a year ago, purchased it for $789,000 in a bankruptcy auction today. He hopes to reopen during the winter.

Owner Lorie Montenigro closed the 4-year-old restaurant in July, after state authorities seized the liquor license for failure to pay taxes. The restaurant then filed for bankruptcy Sept. 15. Of the $4 million owed to creditors in the filing, $2.1 million was for a loan and interest from Shields.

“Last year, we never thought it would come to this. The whole bankruptcy thing came out of nowhere,” Shields said. “We obviously want to get it open and operating quickly.”

Shields outbid Hoboken restaurateur Michael Accardi, who owns Teak On The Hudson and Lana Lounge. Nick Russo, who owns the nearby buildings that house the restaurants Kumo and Dim Sum Dynasty, had opened bidding at $450,000 but Shields and Accardi took it from there, first in $25,000 increments, then $1,000 for the last few bids.

Shields later had to withstand three more rounds of bidding, as the equipment, lease and liquor license were offered as separate transactions, to see which scenario would raise the most cash. Edward Sullivan, who owns Blend’s building, was the high bidder for the liquor license, at $460,000, but the equipment fetched only $16,000 and the lease, just $1,000.

Shields’ bid must still be approved in bankruptcy court on Wednesday. The auction company, Springfield-based A.J. Willner, had been hoping the auction would fetch $700,000.

Bob Suede, who ran Blend’s weekly Singer Songwriter Showcase, was relieved to hear of Shields’ plan to reopen, saying no other North Jersey venue was comparable.

“I didn’t even book a singer-songwriter in another club, because I couldn’t find another place worthy,” he said. “Blend wasn’t just a club. This place was built on music. To know that love of music will continue is just fantastic.”

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