Thursday, May 30, 2024

Long Beach’s first distillery, Portuguese Bend, files for bankruptcy

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In a letter sent out to investors by Michael Kogan of Kogan Law Firm, Inc., Portuguese Bend Distilling LLC will be appearing in the United States Bankruptcy Court later this month to formally file for bankruptcy.

The news looks to mark the end of what has become a bitter, controversial battle that has pitted its main owners—the distiller and largely the mastermind of the operation, Simon Haxton, and co-owner Brenda Rivera, who led food and catering—against one another in public and private rows.

Last year, Rivera sued Haxton, noting—among other things—a toxic workplace spearheaded by Haxton. After allegedly unilaterally removing Luis Navarro (Rivera’s husband and business partner, who isn’t officially part of the LLC) from the space’s formal operations, including access to financial and client accounts, Haxton then led what Rivera says was a final descent into closure: With a lack of quality in the front of house, largely led by Navarro and Rivera, this was followed by a lack of quality control on spirits (their once-popular Dona Rosa gin would turn from a pretty pink to a urine-like yellow if on a shelf for too long, for example) and an overall lack of follow-through on future plans, particularly including distribution.

According to an investors meeting’s notes in 2021, Haxton hadn’t even made a handful of accounts for the spirits to be sold to nor had he achieved any form of major distribution; on top that, his sales were dismal: 2020 and 2021 saw total bottle sales at a mere $7,000, or a few hundred bottles—two years that saw one of the largest growths in at-home alcohol consumption.

Despite making a significant portion of money—over $1M—during the pandemic by creating sanitizer, Portuguese Bend saw a steady decline of service hours across 2022 and into early 2023, from open seven days a week for full lunch and dinner service when the space first opened in 2019 to three days a week with limited hours come January of this year.

Come February, the space officially shuttered.

It marks the unfortunate demise of what was advertised as an achievement in Long Beach’s culinary and drinking scene: Our city’s first grain-to-glass distillery.

Neither parties have returned request for comment.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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