© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What does court order mean for future of Hofbräuhaus, the closed restaurant in Belleville?

The Hofbräuhaus German restaurant in Belleville has been closed since January 2023.
Belleville News-Democrat
The Hofbräuhaus German restaurant in Belleville has been closed since January 2023.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

If the Hofbräuhaus German restaurant in Belleville ever reopens, and a new franchise agreement isn’t signed, all signs and logos of the Hofbräuhaus brand must be removed, according to a federal judge’s order filed Wednesday.

This requirement is part of a settlement agreement approved by U.S. District Judge Staci M. Yandle in the Southern District of Illinois.

The national franchisor, Hofbräuhaus of America LLC, has agreed to pay for the removal the large, blue Hofbräuhaus signs on the exterior of the Belleville restaurant, according to Yandle’s order, which is based on a proposed settlement agreement filed last month.

Operators of the restaurant also must remove or cover all Hofbräuhaus signs on the inside of the building, including branding carved into wooden benches, the order says. Signs on walls, glass doors, beer tanks, light fixtures, chairs, tables and bar stools are also part of of the order.

Hofbräuhaus in Belleville shut down in January 2023 as it dealt with a trademark and copyright infringement lawsuit filed in March 2022 by Hofbräuhaus of America against the local operators. The German-style beer hall and restaurant is located off Illinois 15 across from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

The order filed Wednesday resolves all of the claims made in connection with the lawsuit.

The Hofbräuhaus of America complaint had alleged that the Belleville Hofbräuhaus was causing “irreparable harm and continuing damage to the reputation and business of both Hofbräuhaus and Hofbräu München.” In December 2022, Hofbräuhaus of America alleged in court documents that the Belleville restaurant had sold domestic beer and had installed arcade games and pool tables in violation of the franchise agreement.

Robert W. Stephens, an attorney in St. Louis representing Hofbräuhaus of America, said he would check with his client to see if they wanted to comment on the settlement.

While the Belleville location remains closed, there are six remaining Hofbräuhaus sites in the United States, including ones in Las Vegas and Cleveland. The franchisor is part of the Munich, Germany-based Hofbräuhaus brewery, which traces its roots to 1589.

Michael A. Campbell, an attorney in St. Louis representing the court-appointed receiver for the Belleville Hofbräuhaus, said a confidentiality agreement prevented him from releasing details of the settlement that were not in the court records filed Wednesday.

Campbell said if the receiver has information to release about the future of the Belleville site, he would publicize that.

The Hofbräuhaus in Belleville opened in 2018, which was about two years later than the original developers said it would open. Hotels, a conference center and other restaurants were also part of the proposal, but they were never built. Another developer said he would build a soccer field complex next to the Hofbräuhaus site but that plan never materialized.

The late Chuck Keller of Effingham and his family developed the Hofbräuhaus in Belleville under a company called Oak Tree Management Services.

They were sued in December 2019 by Royal Banks of Missouri, which alleged in a petition filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court seeking a $21.7 million judgment that they failed to pay restaurant sales tax, rent and franchise fees.

A judge initially assigned William Guy Crouch as the receiver who was given “complete and exclusive control” over the business affairs for the Hofbräuhaus. Crouch, who had sold assetsbelonging to the Keller family, has since been replaced by Richard L. Striler, who is now represented by Campbell.

The city of Belleville spent $2.42 million to extend sewer lines to the Hofbräuhaus site. It also granted several types of tax incentives worth up to $32.36 million to the Hofbräuhaus developers, but those incentives were based on future revenues generated at the site and were not paid upfront.

This file photo shows some of the brewing equipment at the Hofbäuhaus German restaurant in Belleville.
Belleville News-Democrat
This file photo shows some of the brewing equipment at the Hofbäuhaus German restaurant in Belleville.

Hofbräuhaus court order

The court order filed on Wednesday lays out the following requirements:

▪ The Hofbräuhaus site in Belleville will not operate as a Hofbräuhaus-branded restaurant unless a new franchise agreement is reached.

▪ If the building is sold or leased to another company, this company cannot operate a Hofbräuhaus unless a new franchise agreement is reached.

▪ Oak Tree and the court-appointed receiver “will not make further use of any Hofbräu-related beer recipes or proprietary brewing information.”

The Belleville site has brewing equipment but it had not been in use as of the fall of 2022.

▪ Oak Tree and the court-appointed receiver will no longer use any Hofbräuhaus websites and their social media site cannot use the Hofbräuhaus name.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Belleville Hofbräuhaus Facebook page was still open but the last post was made on Jan. 29, 2023, when the restaurant said it would be launching a new menu. The page has 21,000 followers.

▪ Hofbräuhaus of America has three months to reclaim the signs from the Belleville site.

The order does not require any structural changes to the restaurant building.

Mike Koziatek is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Mike Koziatek is a reporter who covers the Belleville area for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.