Willie's Place Closing

Truckstop operator declares Chapter 11 bankruptcy, financial backer forecloses

CARL'S CORNER, Texas -- Although it sounds like the plotline of a country song, Willie's Place, named after singer Willie Nelson, will close for business on January 31, reported KWTX-TV. The gas station and entertainment complex, situated on 15 acres off of Interstate 35 in Carl's Corner, Texas, officially opened in early 2009.

As reported in CSP Daily News at the time, the truckstop features 12 diesel/biodiesel fueling lanes for tractor-trailers plus a wide-load island. There is a separate fueling island for cars and trucks. In addition to the truckstop fueling [image-nocss] facilities, Willie's Place at Carl's Corner features two restaurants, a convenience store, a saloon, a gift shop featuring official Willie Nelson merchandise and memorabilia and the 500-seat Night Life theater that will feature regular live music performances. Additionally, this destination for travelers features wireless internet access, clean restrooms, hot showers, laundry facilities and plenty of parking.

A bankruptcy court is permitting Willie Nelson's Truck Stop's financial backer to foreclose on the Texas location after it filed Chapter 11, added a separate report by eTrucker. On January 11, Judge Harlin Hale of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Northern District of Texas lifted the automatic stay on the truckstop, doing business as Willie's Place. The stay stops foreclosures and collection activity when the debtor petitions for bankruptcy.

Carl Cornelius is president and Nelson is an equity holder, court documents cited by the publication stated.

New Jersey-based SBL Capital Funding financed completion of the truckstop in February 2008. SBL, a private direct lender, specializes in short-term real estate bridge loans to high-risk borrowers. The loan's principal amount is nearly $5 million and SBL received a deed of trust and security agreement on Willie's Place, extended to mature February 2010.

Last May, the business filed Chapter 11, allowing reorganization and payment of creditors over time and then paid $200,000 to SBL. It still owed SBL, not including fees and expenses, nearly $6.5 million in December. That debt excludes legal fees, expenses and per diem interest of $2,750, which continues to accrue.

The bankruptcy court will allow SBL to take over Willie's Place February 1, according to KWTX.

The truckstop employs nearly 80 people but has never been profitable, eTrucker said. It borrowed $35,000 from Nelson to make its September adequate protection payment. The court rejected its reorganization plan this month.

"You couldn't pay it, virtually impossible; we tried to negotiate it down, everything fell through," co-owner Steve Gilcrease told KWTX. "Makes you want to shed a tear to walk in there and look at it. You look back and you go, 'Well if I'd done this, if I'd done that it could have been different,' but we had three years for a lot of fun."

Cornelius founded the town of Carl's Corner in the late 1980s to house Carl's Corner Truck Stop. He has been the town's mayor and municipal judge and in 2004, co-founded Willie Nelson Biodiesel Co. with longtime friend Nelson, producing and distributing BioWillie fuel, said eTrucker.

In 2005, they opened the concert theater Willie's Place at the truckstop, located 15 miles from the singer's Abbot, Texas, birthplace.

Texas-based Earth Biofuels had distributed BioWillie, but in 2008, Nelson obtained an injunction barring it from using the names BioWillie or Willie Nelson in any manner, according to a 2008 SEC filing cited by the publication.